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Authors: Jacqueline Druga

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JOE

Beginnings Book 25

by

Jacqueline Druga

Joe

Beginnings Book 25

By Jacqueline Druga

Copyright 2016 by Jacqueline Druga

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Thank you so very much to Kira for all your help with this book

A Momentary Pause…

Once in a great while the characters of a novel speak to you. They speak to you as if they were real people. In the eyes of Beginnings they are.

I often say that my Beginnings Novels write themselves. This isn’t exactly true. My characters will dictate a lot of the time where the story will go.

I mean, do you really think I wanted Robbie to lose an arm? Joe to die? Henry to be gay … ok, maybe I didn’t want Henry to be gay and though he’d argue that he wasn’t gay, I did do that to him. He’s not gay he’s confused. Or do you think I decided outright that Frank would run fifty miles an hour, read minds and be the ultimate hero.

Not to that extend. You bet.

So now, before this entire Novel begins I am going to do a character survey. Like I did once before in Faulted Lines.

I am going to ask each of my characters a question. And they will answer it. Hopefully their answers will guide me to what they want me to write.

Not that I’ll listen.

 

The Question is: What do you expect or hope from your role in Beginnings?

 

Some of the characters answers

Jimmy Slagel

I want to be a part of the family again. Remembered and written into the storyline like I mean something. I mean, come on, I am a Slagel, yet, yet mind you I haven’t had a storyline. Sure, when she brought me back, but since then, for two books I have been hidden in the basement working on something.

Jenny Matoose

Jimmy Slagel and total happiness. I would like to see Jimmy get a storyline. Maybe a really good romantic one with me. We need to be the Bo and Hope. We need that Rhett and Scarlet spark that only we can bring to the pages. Women respect me. I should be out front.

Henry Kusikari

To not be gay. Oh, sure, I’m not really gay. But she has made the readers believe I’m gay with her confusion stuff and making me live a husband wife lifestyle with another man. I want not to be a gay character. Maybe make someone else gay. Like Hal. Or Robbie. Yeah, Robbie, he had that gay kiss.

George Hadley

To be in a few spats. Have an enemy. Not to the extent that I had enemies before but I fight a good verbal fight. I remember all those people that annoyed Joe and myself. I’ve been a pretty predominant character so, unlike Henry I have no complaints. He should be happy he wasn’t killed off.

Mike Manis

If she would have asked me, I would have told her (the writer) to stay the course. I was good character, but now I’m an emotional maniac who will always play second fiddle to Frank. I’d like to be written out if she goes where I think she’s going and that is a love story with Bertha.

Jess Boyens

First, everyone always plays second fiddle to Frank. That’s the way it is. What do I want? I want back in the story line. I think she should make me gay again, and make a love triangle between two men and a woman. Maybe hook me and Jimmy Slagel together.

Danny Hoi

Actually, I’m pretty happy with my role in Beginnings. I was supposed to be a secondary character and I just shine. Thank you. Oh, yeah, for those of you who aren’t sure, I’m the Asian man who is not gay.

Andrea Winters-Slagel

I am an intelligent woman and once again I will air my complaint on being made into a menopausal mess. Also, more Jesus. Other than that, I’m good.

Ellen Slagel

I want to be menopausal like Andrea. She is so fun. One moment she is flighty, the next serious. It’s a great role. I do think we need more Henry. How many readers actually remember the name of our baby?

Roy

To stay in Beginnings, get a wife like Marian and stop the Great War. I also would like to eat Oodles of Dan noodles every day. Bill. The name of Ellen and Henry’s child is Bill.

Elliott Ryder

Correction, his name is Luke. The baby’s name is Luke. Although I like not dying I was a much better person when I was. I had a better story line and was much more eloquent. I think I would like to go back to that humble Elliott.

Dean Hayes

Wow, he didn’t mention Ellen. Wait he did. To give the wrong name of her child. It’s Phil. The baby’s name is Phil. And finally, I’m good. I’m getting some interesting stories without looking like an idiot who constantly screws up. But how long will that last?

Hal Slagel

About 30 seconds. You already screwed up. The name of the child is Mike, like the other character. Good God people. I am quite content with my storyline, and since I am on good terms with the author, I know where she is taking it. I do think she erred though in making Frank president. But that still remains to be seen. I foresee a short bus run on Frank’s new found intelligence.

 

And why would Henry want me gay. Do I look gay? Do I act gay?

(Frank interjects) Well, if you want to know …

No, Frank we do not. Henry just is jealous because he doesn’t have a storyline.

(Henry Interjects) I don’t have a story line because you and Elliott Ryder ate up all the room.

 

I believe when Danny Hoi came to town you were replaced, and that was a brilliant move. Thank God.

Robbie Slagel

I couldn’t agree more, Hal. Henry is a bitch. I didn’t have a gay kiss that was just wishful thinking on his part.

 

(At this time, I the writer had to separate a potential fight. Even though Frank kept on agitating and egging it on, I did manage to get everything back to normal and Robbie continued)

Thanks. You guys are funny. I don’t think I ever knew Ellen and Henry’s baby’s name. I didn’t think it was Mike, though.

Joe Slagel

It’s not. You’re all morons. Christ Almighty his name is Nick. Nick. Not Mike, Phil, Bill. They should have left me dead. But then again, me not being around means an intelligent Frank and where is the entertainment in that? If we’re gonna read this series for Christ knows how long, it might as well be entertaining, and Frank, being Frank is the only way to go. Make Hal President, I’ll be King. Ha, when I’m alive, again, that is.

Frank

Remember the days when I rushed in to save the day? When someone’s life was hanging on a thread and I would come in at the last second and stop the death from happening. Man, those were the days. I miss that. Now, I do administrative work. I have to add.

 

(Hal interjects) Good God, Frank, if the fate of the world truly hung on your math skills we’d all be in trouble.

I can add.

(Hal interjects) Badly.

 

Still. Anyhow, being the president isn’t bad. It has its perks. I pick on Hal so he doesn’t pick on me anymore. But if I could pick one thing. One thing I’d like to see in Beginnings I’d have to say I would like to see a Taco Bell.

CHAPTER ONEDetroit MichiganJoe Louis Arena1980

The tiny piece of confetti was something Dean Hayes had felt before in his life, but not in a long time. He allowed it to fall into the palm of his hand and he enjoyed it like a kid with his first snowflake.

Dean grinned.

“What a mess this is going to be for the cleanup crew,” Jason Godrichson stated, walking alongside Dean on the way to the arena.

“But we won’t be around to see that.”

“True. God!” Jason gasped out. “Can you feel it? The energy. The …”

“Republicans.”

Jason’s smile matched Dean’s. “The convention center is just ahead. Oh, look vendors.”

Dean stopped abruptly. “I have to get a shirt.”

Jason nodded but didn’t say much. Dean figured it was because Jason already had the cool, ‘I love Ronald Reagan’ tee shirt. The phrase with a huge picture of Ronald Reagan smiling and giving a thumbs up. People stopped him in route to the center to say they loved it. To ask where to get one.

One time Jason even responded. “Oh, they don’t make them yet.”

“Well,” the one lady said. “When can I get one?”

“1984.”

Jason did that laugh. Closed mouth, silent, smug laugh and moved along with Dean.

Just before the vendor booths positioned outside the convention center, Dean raised the camera and snapped a picture.

“Careful with people seeing you with that,” Jason stated. “Digital Cameras aren’t public for another 15 years.”

“Yikes, you’re right.” Dean put it in the bag. I’m just so … Wow, oh, wow.” Dean lifted a tee shirt. “How much?” he asked the vendor.

“Seven bucks.”

Dean laughed. “Seven? Wow, so great.” He gave him a ten. “Keep the change.”

“Aren’t you the generous guy?”

“I forgot it was 1980. I have 250 bucks in my pocket. That goes a long way. Here hold this.” Dean handed him the camera bag, then proceeded to put the tee shirt on over his tie and shirt. “How’s it look.”

“You look like a true Reagan supporter.”

“I am.”

“We’re here.” Jason pointed.

“Wait.” Dean stopped him. “How are we getting in there?”

“My friend, this is pre 911. Pre Reagan being shot. Low security. Watch.” Jason winked and walked them to the gate. After a flash of some ID, they went thorough.

“How did you do that?” Dean asked.

“Simple.” Jason flashed the ID. “My father’s driver’s license. I recalled he was on the list and had the flu. Never made it. So, of course, I pass for my father.”

“Sir!” The security guard called out. “Sir, wait.”

“Great. Busted. “Dean stated. “What now?”

“We have the time machine to zap away.” From facing Dean, Jason turned with a pleasant smile. “Yes.”

The security guard caught his breath. “You forgot your passes to get back stage.” He handed them to Jason. “Gov. Reagan will be upset if he doesn’t meet you.”

“Thank you.” Jason nodded, then once the guard walked away, he spun to Dean. “We’re going backstage.”

Like two teenage girls they reached for each other, Jumped with a shriek of excitement, then regained their composure.

Both cleared their throats and straightened their clothes.

Jason smiled and nodded to passersby who looked. “Let’s go,” he said to Dean. “I can’t wait.”

“Back stage passes.” Dean grinned. “Ronald Reagan. Does it get any better than this?”

 

Indeed

Jason thought for sure meeting Ronald Reagan would be the highlight of his night, until he met the legendary Jimmy Stewart beforehand. They had great seats, next to Pat Boone, and Donny and Marie off to the side of the stage.

Jason actually got chills and teary eyed when Reagan spoke and gave his speech. Not like he hadn’t heard it or read it a million times.

Reagan was amazing.

But before that, the chills began. Ginger Rogers took a spin with Jason. Of course, when Dean saw who he was seated next to, he immediately asked for an autograph for his wife.

Not that Ellen was actually still his wife, but what did Marie know.

Jason was pretty impressed at her innocence and sweetness. Then again, she was only something like twenty-one at the time.

“Take our picture,” Dean requested and pulled the camera from the bag. “Donny. Marie. Please.”

They both happily agreed and Dean, who was old enough to be their father, stood in the middle grinning.

Jason saw it. Donny wasn’t as dumb as everyone made him out to be.

He crinkled a brow at the camera.

“Jeepers,” Donny said. “What the heck is that?”

Thinking ‘fuck’, Jason snapped the picture, then another, and mentally prepared how to explain this miniature deal in his hand.

But he didn’t need to.

Marie did. “You are such a goober, Donny. Gees.” She shook her head. “Dr. Godrichson is an inventor.”

Jason smiled.

“Sorry. Dr. Godrichson.”

Jason waved his hand in a no problem manner and handed the camera back to Dean.

“Thank you so much,” Dean said.

“Hey Dr. Hayes.” Donny snapped his finger. “Do you watch Family?”

“With Kristy McNichol. I did.” Dean’s face lit up. I owned the complete. . Complete …”

Did he want to say DVD collection? Jason wondered. Clearing his throat, Jason spoke. “My embarrassed friend was going to admit to owning the complete Family Trading Card set of 1979.”

Donny blinked. “They had trading cards. Wow, we missed them. Anyhow, did you see the one episode with this new actor? Marie,” he turned to Marie. “What was his name? He was in the TV movie.”

“Michael Fox.”

Dean laughed. “Michael J. Fox. Yeah, he’s huge.”

“No.” Donny said. “He’s actually small like you.”

Marie hit him.

“Sorry. I meant short. I was gonna say you look like you could be his dad. Are you related?”

“No. But I hear that a lot,” Dean said.

“You do?” Donny asked.

“Sure, I mean, how many other little famous guys with dark blonde hair do you know.” Dean chuckled.

“He’s not famous,” Donny said.

“He is where I come from.”

Jason rolled his eyes.

“Dr. Hayes, can I ask you something,” Marie spoke up.

“Sure.”

“Don’t get mad.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Were you in the Army?”

“Wow. Yeah, I was. How did you know?”

“The scars on your face. You must have gotten them in the war, right?”

Dean appeared awkward. “Yeah. I did.”

“Marie you dufus. What the heck?” Donny snapped. “That was so not nice.”

“Children.” Jason held up his hand. “No need. Dr. Hayes is proud of his service. And he got those scars from saving hundreds of children from being executed when they were mistaken as spies and turned over to the Vietcong by Jane Fonda.”

Marie released an ‘Ahh’ and hugged Dean.

Donny crinkled his face. “I dislike her.”

“We all do,” Jason said. “We all do.”

****

The backstage area was loud, and busy, senators, everyone was there, and Jason worried that perhaps he wouldn’t get a chance to meet the great one face to face.

Until he and Dean were pulled into a back room.

Ronald Reagan stood up from the chair and extended his hand. “Well, Dr. Godrichson. I have to say you look much nobler in person.”

Jason smirked. “Thank you, Mr. President.”

Dean extended his hand. “Mr. President it is an honor.”

“Ah, no, not yet.” Ron bashfully shook his head. His rosy cheeks blushing.

“Soon,” Jason said. “Landslide victory. In fact I predict you’ll get a whopping 389 electoral votes. 525 in the 84 elections.”

“Jason.” Dean whispered.

“Won’t hurt anything by saying that.” Jason retorted.

“You’re right,” Ronald said. “You know me. I’m a man who keeps secrets. Is that your prediction?”

“Sure you were … I mean will be a great president,” Jason winked. “You can bank on it. In fact …” Jason reached into his pocket. “This is the address of a bank in Montana. I have a safety deposit box there. I’ll be out of the country for some time, years. Doing inventing. You know.”

“Sure,” Ronald said.

“If I am correct in those predictions, when you publish a memoir, which you will, can you sign me a copy and get it into that safety deposit box. You of all people will have the means to do so.”

Ronald Reagan laughed. “Absolutely.” He folded the paper and put it in his pocket.

Jason thought ahead. He knew should he ever need an address during his time travel ventures, a post office box wouldn’t work. But purchasing a lifelong safety deposit box would. He saw the glee in Reagan’s eye. Would he remember to do so, remained to be seen.

But Nancy …

She stood in the doorway barely, noticed. Gentle and dignified.

“Did you hear that Nancy?” Ronald asked.

“Yes. I’ll take that for you.” Nancy held out her hand. “I’ll handle that request. You know how forgetful you can be.”

Dean mumbled. “And will get.”

Jason spun to him. “That was wrong.”

Dean hunched.

“Ronnie,” Nancy spoke gently. “I know you designated a half hour for Dr. Godrichson before the party. But I really want to introduce him to a few people who can’t stay. Do you mind? Five minutes.”

“Be my guest,” Ronald held out his hand. “I’ll chat with Dr. Hayes.”

“Wonderful,” She held out her hand. “Dr. Godrichson?”

“Delighted.” Jason looped his arm and Nancy locked a grip. He leaned into Dean. “Watch what you say.”

“I’m good.” Dean said. “I’m good.”

Jason, unsure about leaving Dean alone with Ronald Reagan, didn’t want to disappoint Nancy, so he left with her. Things would be fine. After all, how much damage could Dean do in five minutes?

 

Ronald Reagan leaned against the table, hands folded in front of him, as he did that famous exhaling, ‘Well.’

“Well.” Dean responded. His heart was pounding. Beating strongly. He was so nervous, there he was with the icon, the greatest president, at least in Dean’s mind, there ever was.

“So you and Dr. Godrichson agree on that prediction.”

“Without a doubt. You kill … kill in the elections. Landslide should be your theme song.”

Ronnie laughed. “You speak in present tense.”

“We’re like psychic, you can say. I am.”

“I love psychics. Tell me more predictions.”

Was that a direct order? Dean believed it was. How could he refuse? “If I tell you anything you can’t tell a soul.”

“Promise.”

“Ok, like when you die. A very, very old age death. You stop the world. The world stops to mourn you.”

“You don’t say...” He folded his arms and pulled out a chair. “Who will I choose as a running mate?”

“Well, you say running mate.” Dean sat down, too. “Vice president, but Ford, he wants to be co-president.”

“How did you know that?”

Dean pointed to his temple. “Don’t go for it. Go for George Bush. Great Vice president material, he’ll also be president one day. And so will his son of the same name.”

“Now, see,” Reagan shook his finger. “Georgie the son, president?” he laughed. “Can he stay off the booze long enough?”

“Nah. But he is.”

“What else can you tell me Dr. Hayes?”

Dean looked back at the door, then leaned closer to Reagan.

****

Arms full with memorabilia, Jason and Dean found a nice secluded place to zap themselves back. They had stayed longer than they wanted. Going to the party was fun, even though they remained unseen.

“This was great,” Jason pulled out the time machine.

“You should see these shots.” Dean reviewed the pictures in the camera. “Everyone can believe us when we let this secret out.”

“It’ll be amazing,” Jason prepped the HG Wells.

“This I swear has been the greatest day of my life.”

“A Republican’s dream come true.”

“Now if I could have met John Wayne.”

“Frank’s version of God.”

Dean laughed. “I forgot about that.”

“It’s possible.”

“Yeah, yeah it is.” Dean gushed.

“We should make a list of what we need to do or want to do. Places to visit, people to meet.”

“I agree.”

Jason held his finger on the green button. “Well my friend, this ends here. Take a breath.”

Dean did.

Jason inhaled. “Reagan.”

“Reagan.”

“Back to reality.”

“It’s time.”

Visually, Jason agreed, and then he pressed the button.


Page 2

Zap.

CHAPTER TWOBeginnings Montana

How long had Robbie stood outside waiting? Waiting since he heard a person in the next trailer. He was supposed to be at the Communications room. He was getting called, he knew it. His phone buzzed on vibrate insistently. Heart pounding from anticipation, the phone was driving him nuts and knowing that Dan would arrive to get him at any second.

Come on, his mind beckoned.

Robbie back up more, pressing hard against the metal surface. He could see the door through the corner of his eyes.

It opened. No one was there.

He pulled out the Mist gun, beckoning in his mind that it would work.

Thinking, ‘Jason don’t fail me now’, Robbie eyed the screen door.

As if a ghost were in control, it opened.

A footstep on the wooden porch.

A footstep. But no one was there.

The screen door shut.

Another footstep, they hit the second step.

Robbie had to be fast and accurate.

He had to be. With an over extension of his leg, Robbie leapt forward to surpass the porch, pivoted his body, held out the gun, and in Dirty Harry action, Fired off five shots of the gun.

A blue mist, large and soaking emerged.

Within a split second, so did a figure directly before Robbie.

Robbie lowered the gun. His shoulders moved up and down, eyes focused wide and forward on the figure.

He pouted his thick lips, moistening them before speaking in a cracked voice. “Who?

One word. One word choked out until he got out another. This time he spoke his next word with passion and desperation. “Please.”

The ink started to disappear, but not before a recognizable arm reached up to the head. The figure became invisible quickly. The ink wasn’t lasting.

Robbie’s heart pounded harder, faster.

The figure removed the hood. Becoming nothing but a mere floating head. “Robert, Goddamn it,” he said with irritation. “Son of a bitch bastard.”

Happy, thrilled, relieved, angry, shocked. Whatever emotion it was. Even though he knew deep down inside, Robbie was still barreled over with his own revelation, and could only gasp out, “Dad.”

But in a second, a squeal of jeep tires was followed by a scream by Dan. A horrified scream, then silence.

Robbie turned. Dan lay slumped over in the jeep as it started to drift.

“Fuck!” As Robbie ran to the jeep he looked back to Joe, or rather the head of Joe. “No wonder he passed out. Stay … don’t go. Please. Stay. Ok?” Barely able to breathe, Robbie caught the jeep.

*****

Frank.

In the communications room, he stood alone. He sent everyone away. Not out of anger, but just out of needing a moment. The ten o’clock meeting didn’t take long, and what it revealed was more than Frank bargained for,Of course, a part of him knew it was coming.

Ellen and Danny Hoi successfully got Jimmy away from the ALS3 program so Roy could figure it out. Now, Frank had to figure out how to tell Jimmy it was done without Jimmy knowing about Roy the clone.

Frank figured he would just tell Jimmy that he did it.

Yeah, Jimmy wouldn’t know.

Ellen already had him convinced he had a brain tumor, what was one more set of symptoms.

One problem solved.

Now the other.

Frank turned to the big screen on the wall, now silent, but still lit.

He grabbed a raisin cookie from the plate. Cookies Roy made for the occasion.

Twenty-four hundred plus troops sitting just hundreds of miles north of Beginnings. Not moving. Not making any hostile indications.

Then again, they did have one of Hal’s men. Was that an act of war?

What would his father do? How would his father handle it?

Frank hadn’t been the leader very long and already he was going to face something huge.

Like George Bush with 9/11.

Unlike him, Frank had some foreknowledge.

Frank stared at the lights that indicated the troops. Would he make the same mistakes his father supposedly did? The mistakes his father had to die to prevent.

“Frank.”

Ellen’s call drew Frank away from the board. “El.” He cleared his throat.

She stepped into the room, gently smiling. “How are you?”

“I thought you left with Danny and Roy.”

“They were chatting. I was worried.”

“Well, yeah. Danny and fuckin Roy together could be too much for one person.”

“Not about Danny and Roy...”

“Sorry.” Frank turned again to the board. “This is a pretty big fucking problem that’s only gonna get worse.”

“Not about that, Frank.”

Frank looked down as she approached him.

“About you.”

“El, please.” He scoffed.

“I know you. This is on your mind.”

“No shit.” He shook his head. “I’ll be fine.”

“And you’ll do the right thing. I’m certain of that and that’s why I am.”

“To tell me what to do?” Frank asked.

“No, to tell you that you’ll do the right thing.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I know you,” Ellen stepped to him. “If anyone can save a situation, it’s you. I believe in you.” She embraced him.

Frank took that in, taking El into his arms.

“However, I can’t believe you’re eating raisin cookies.” She moved back. “You hate raisin cookies.”

“Yeah, I know but these are fuckin awesome.” Frank grabbed another cookie. “Plus, since I am now part jackrabbit, I like vegetables.”

“It’s a fruit.”

“Oh.” Frank laughed. “Still.” He took a bite.

“So have you figured out the ‘What now’?”

“Not yet. I wish, I wish my dad was here.”

“He is Frank. In spirit. He is.”

“I guess that will be enough.” Frank took her in his arms again. “It has to be.” Holding Ellen, his worried eyes traveled to the board and the massive amounts of dancing lights.

*****

There was a chill in the air that seeped into Hal’s bones. It wasn’t just the April coolness either. It was the revelation of what lay on the horizon.

He waited by the truck waiting for his right hand man, Elliott Ryder to return. Frank had told them there was no reason to stay in Beginnings. He’d have a meeting regarding everything the next day.

‘Let’s sleep on this,’ Frank had said.

Hal, leaning against the driver’s door of the truck, chuckled at that thought.

“Captain?” Elliott approached. “Remembering something funny?”

“You could say that, Elliott.” Hal opened the door. “I’m remembering what my brother said.”

“And that was?”

“Sleep on it.”

Elliott gave him a quizzical look then, he too got in the truck.

Hal started the truck and began to drive.

“Captain? Why is that funny?”

“Because Elliott. Sleep on it? It’s ten in the morning. It’s a long day to sleep on it. He’s retarded.”

Elliott hid his snicker. “I think you know what he meant.”

“I think he wants to play with the new toy by himself.”

“Your brother seemed rather …. Unemotional about all this.”

“We were expecting something.”

“Still, I think he just wants to absorb what is happening. Plus, we’ll have to have our own meeting regarding this.”

Hal nodded. “Our scouts did report the same thing. “

“What do you suppose Frank will want to do about it?”

”I couldn’t say.”

“What would you do if this lay on your shoulders?”

“I see them differently than everyone in that room,” Hal said. “I see them as a hostile threat. They took our man. I’d want to wipe them out.”

“But you wouldn’t?”

Hal shook his head. “I wouldn’t want to change anything history has planned. And trust me, if in the previous future my father was running things, he would have let them sit to see what they were up to.”

“They are setting up camp. Making plans for the long range game instead of short.”

“Like with Kuwait. Desert Shield.”

“Exactly.” Elliott agreed. “I think we should send a Special Forces team in there to rescue our man.”

“I agree.” Hal tapped his hand on the wheel. “One of the best to do so or at least set up the training and the mission would be my brother Robbie. He is …” Hal slowed down his speech and stared out.

“Captain? What is it?”

“Robbie.” Hal glanced at Elliott as he drove. “We had this huge meeting. About the impending invasion. Where was Robbie?”

*****

Robbie was quick. He ran to the jeep caught it, and guided it to Jason’s lab just a hundred feet away.

The front end rested against the side of the building, jeep running, while Dan, still passed out, slumped in the front.

When he was done. He looked back.

His father was nowhere to be seen.

Thinking, please don’t let him have put on that suit and left,’ Robbie trotted to the trailer.

The door was open and he stepped in.

Joe came from the hall wearing a tee shirt and boxer shorts.

“Dad.” Robbie gushed. “Oh my God.” He reached out. “I thought. I thought you were dead.” This was it. The big reunion. Robbie had waited for it. All the things Robbie wanted to say that were less-than-nice, he tossed aside for the moment. His father was back and he grabbed on to him in a long overdue embrace.

“Yeah. I know.” Joe hugged him. “And it was supposed to be that way.”

Ok, maybe it was Robbie’s imagination, but the hug wasn’t a long lost father hug. Joe seemed rather annoyed. Nah. Robbie grinned. “You don’t seem happy to see me.”

“That’s because I’ve seen you all the time.”

Like a kid, Robbie snickered. “True Dad.”

“Robert, what did you do with Dan?”

“Oh,” Robbie waved out his hand. “I put the jeep against the quantum lab like he ran into it.”

“And Dan is where?”

“In the jeep.”

“Uh ha.” Joe nodded. “If he’s out there, why are you in here?”

“To see you.”

“Yeah, but what happens if he wakes up and comes in here.”

“He’s fine. He’s just passed out,” Robbie said.

“So that means he doesn’t have a goddamn head injury, he can wake at any second.”

“I’m sure he’s fine.” Robbie reiterated.

“Robert.”

“Dad, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Deal with it. Damage control.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. Think of something,” Joe said irritated.

“But I want to talk to you. See you.”

“You will.”

“Not if you put that suit on.”

“Robert go deal with Dan.”

“Where will you be when I’m done?” Robbie asked.

“Right here.” Joe nodded. “I won’t go anywhere.”

“Are you sure.”

“Yes. Go.”

“Ok.” Robbie moved to the door, stopped, retracted and kissed Joe on the cheek. “I missed you.”

“I know. Go.”

Another step to the door. “I love you, Dad.”

“Robert.”

“What?”

“Go.”

“I am.” He paused at the door and grinned. “It is so great to have you back.”

“Go.”

“I’m gone. I’ll be back.”

“I’m sure.”

“Dad …”

“Go!” Joe pointed.

With a ‘Ha’ Robbie darted out, closing the door behind him.

Joe exhaled and plopped on the couch, shaking his head. “Christ.”

CHAPTER THREE

“Do you even feel the slightest bit guilty?” Danny Hoi asked, while walking with Roy back to the clinic. “I mean you have to face Jimmy. He was working so hard.”

“Yes, he was. Frank has phoned me and told me he would handle it.”

Danny stopped before the steps. “I wonder that that means.”

“I am sure Frank will handle it brilliantly. He is Frank.”

“He is,” Danny smirked. “That’s why I wonder. Roy, listen. You did great.”

“Thank you. It is an honor to get to know you as a young man Danny Hoi.”

“What will you do when this is done?” Danny asked.

“Done?”

“Yeah, obviously, in the whole scheme of things to make the future better, you have a time frame when you’ll know it will work.”

‘Yes.” Roy nodded. “I do. I suppose I will go to the future.”

“But if you were created for a needy future, then no one will know you.”

“That is not true. Are you not going to be securing that future? Good or bad for me.”

Danny grinned. “I am.” He exhaled. “So. Do you think it worked?”

“The ALS3, yes it …”

“No, whatever you and Joe did to get you here. Cause his death. Change the future.”

“Oh, I hope.” Roy wisped out. “I hope.”

“Did you ever think about cheating?”

“Cheating?”

“Yeah, sneaking into the future. Taking a peak, seeing if it is different.”

“Yes, I have.” Roy said. “Unfortunately, the HG Wells is broke. I have that trigger mechanism that makes it impossible to fix.”

Danny shrugged. “Build another. Then go to the future, see if it worked, and make your decision.”

Roy’s eyes lit up. “Danny. You are brilliant. I will make another.”

“Didn’t think of that, did you?”

“Not at all. Sometimes I lack simplicity?” Roy grinned. They headed to the steps. Just as they reached the doors, they heard the screech of tires.

Both men turned. Robbie was pulling up to the clinic with Dan, still out, in the jeep.

“Well, there’s Robbie,” Danny said. “Looks like Dan is injured.”

“Would explain where he was.” Roy watched Robbie lift Dan from the jeep. “I wonder what’s going on.”

“Find out soon enough I guess,” Danny said and opened the door. “Let’s go in and wait.”

“Sounds good.”

They went inside.

 

Robbie struggled to carry Dan. He was a much bigger man, heavy too. He paused half way up the steps in shock when he witnessed Danny and Roy just go into the clinic. “What the fuck?”

*****

Jason usually thought things through all the time. All the time. But why he didn’t think about the safety deposit box issue beforehand was beyond him. He thought he had it all worked out. Perfect. The bank in Bowman was still in existence. However, he had to deal with Ben from Fabrics to get into it. The old bank was the new coffee and poetry house, and Ben was in charge.

It took some convincing, going back and forth with Ben. But after to agreeing to a twenty-dollar Unique Boutique purchase Ben let Jason through to the vault with the old safety deposit boxes.

“I don’t know how you’re going to get into these boxes. They are locked. We’ve been dying to try forever.”

Jason, smugly, raised a key.

“How did you get that?” Ben asked.

“You can say. I thought ahead.”

Ben didn’t leave him alone to open the box, but it certainly was heavy.

‘Yes’, Jason thought, the book is in here. Of course, Jason was not pleasantly surprised when he opened the box.

Two packages were in there. One from Nancy Reagan, and the other from the Reagan Foundation. Postmarked decades apart. After quickly skimming the return addresses, Jason scooped up his packages, thanked Ben and left. He’d find somewhere private to examine what he had.

 

And he did. Then Jason went immediately back to the house where Dean was hiding.

“Dean.” Jason called out like a parent.

Dean was still sporting his tee shirt. Enthused he popped into the living room. “Did you go? Was it there?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent.”

“Dean...”

“Yes?”

“Shall I start calling you, ‘Frank’?” Jason asked.

“What do you mean?”

Jason held up the packages. “What did you do?”

*****

It actually ended up being a perfect thing. At first Robbie was pissed off that Danny and Roy just walked into the clinic without holding the door, but as Robbie entered and saw no one around, he figured it worked in his favor.

He carried Dan down the hall to the waiting room, which was empty, and he placed Dan on the couch. He propped up his feet, put a book on his chest, and took a good look.

Dan appeared as if he had taken a nap, and then Robbie left him.

He supposed there could be questions, but it was Dan. The last thing Dan would remember was seeing Robbie talking to a talking head then ended up in the clinic? Although it would make Dan seem a bit insane, it was Beginnings, so it was par for the course.

Walking down the hall from the waiting room, he saw Andrea leaving an exam room.

“Hey, Andrea.”

“Robbie.” She smiled brightly. “What brings you to the clinic?”

“I was here to see you.”

“Here I am.”

“Cool.” Robbie grinned. “But I didn’t see you now I have to go. I want to get a latte before the afternoon rush. See ya.” He darted a kiss to her cheek.

“Robbie.”

“Yeah,” he stopped with a squeak of his boots.

“Could you be a dear and get me one.”

He wanted to whine. Stomp his foot, and say no, he had to see his dad, but he was Robbie. “Sure, I’ll be right back.”

“You are a sweetheart. I’ll make you brownies.”

“You’re the best.”

“Thank you baby.”

Another smile, a nod and Robbie left. He’d rush, get the coffee, drop it off and hurry back to the trailer. He just wanted to spend time with Joe. Talk to him. Everything seemed to be getting in the way.

*****

She was humming a sweet tune, something Christian when she walked into the lab. “Dean, you’re back.” Andrea said brightly.

Roy faced her. “And I have all those results for you.”

“You are just a pip.” She grinned.

“Thank you.”

Roy handed the results to Andrea, she hummed as she read them.

“You’re in a good mood. Something happen?” Roy asked.

“No, no, just feeling the Holy Spirit.”

Roy looked around. “Here?”

“Everywhere.”

“Wow. How come I don’t feel it?”

“Dean. Really, you don’t live the Christian life.”

“I don’t?”

She chuckled. “I mean you haven’t let Jesus into your heart.”

“How does he get there? I mean, I want to feel this Holy Spirit and be happy like you.”

“But you don’t believe in God.”

Roy gasped. “I do too.”

“You do? Since when?”

Ropy fluttered his lips. “More so recently, I’ll tell you. I went to the church in Bowman.”

“And were moved?”

“Yes. Yes, is that the term?”

“Yes! Yes!” Andrea shouted. “Sweet Jesus, Dean, you are a believer.”

“I have even written a song.”

“No,” Andrea exhaled her word. “Dean this is wonderful. Do you think you’ll start going to church.”

“If it’ll make me sing like that.”

“Sweet Jesus you’re a Christian now.” Andrea laid her hand on her chest and gasped. “Praise.”

“Praise.”

“Amen.”

“Amen,” Roy repeated.

“Pray with me now?” Andrea asked. “Like sealing the deal.”

“Yes. That would be very good. Maybe then I can feel this Holy Spirit.”

Andrea reached for his hands. Just as she did, Melissa knocked on the door.

“Dr. Winters?” Melissa called out.

“Yes, dear?” Andrea turned around.

“I think we have a problem with Dan from Security.”

“What’s going on?”

Melissa breathed out, folded her arms and looked as if in debate.

“Well?” Andrea asked impatiently. “I’m not Ronald Reagan. What’s going on?”

Melissa said with a point backwards with her thumb. “I think we need to call Frank.”

*****

The Memoirs of Ronald Reagan. Hardback edition, autographed with a note from Nancy. That book, Jason expected. The other one he didn’t. It was with a note from Reagan’s family, saying that perhaps Jason wanted to see the book. The book released years after his death, was a diary that Ronald kept and had locked away until his death. He locked it away decades beforehand, before his disease took hold.

The book was titled, ‘Reagan Diaries. The Man, the Myth, the Next Nostradamus.’

Jason tossed the book on the table. “What did you do? Better yet, how much did you change? Hopefully not much.”

“I don’t understand.” Dean hunched.

“Dean. Reagan wrote this book in 1986, had it locked away in 1988. Sealed. It talks about how two visitors from the future told him of events, and other visions he had. Good thing for us, you didn’t mention the plague.”

Dean raised his shoulders. “I did. But maybe he forgot.”

“Dean, I can’t believe you told him things. What all did you tell him.”

“Nothing major.”

“September 11thwasn’t major.”

“Ok, that one was major.”

“Dean, I stopped at the Bowman Library to open this. After I skimmed through I asked the librarian what he knew of Ronald Reagan. Too young to even recall him, he said to me, ‘wasn’t that the famous psychic guy?’”

“Jason … maybe he was confused.”

“My thoughts exactly, so I approached someone older. Much older. Someone I was certain would know Ronald Reagan. So I asked him. And do you know what he said.”

Dean shrugged. “He was the president.”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“No.” Jason shook his head. “He preceded it with he was the psychic who once was president. Dean, we have proceeded to take a great political mind, a champion of politics, a man famous for tearing down the wall of communism and made him famous for predictions.”

“Wow that sucks.”

“Yes, it does.” Jason exhaled. “But I find it mildly amusing. Especially after reading some of the book. Seems we were two future men who visited him frequently.”

“We visited him frequently?” Dean asked. “Do we plan to see him again?”

Jason shrugged. “Who knows?” He lifted the book and started walking to the other room.

“Where are you going?”

“To see what all you told our guru former president.” Jason raised an eyebrow. “We’ll talk later.”

*****

What was up with the steaming thing at the bakery? Robbie made a mental note to tell Danny about it. Twice it clogged up on Gemma and fifteen minutes into getting two lattes, Robbie wanted to screamHe would had left long before if he wasn’t getting one for Andrea. Trying to focus elsewhere other than on Gemma’s fumbling, Robbie spotted Frank walking into the clinic. That was a good thing; Frank was out of the way. Of course he may ask why he wasn’t at that meeting, but it probably wasn’t important, since no one tried to get a hold of his since.

“Almost there now.” Gemma said. “Got the steamer steaming.”

Robbie smiled. “Thanks.” A few more moments, drop off the coffee, then off to see his father. How long had he waited.

*****

“Hysterical, Frank, just hysterical,” Melissa said in a rushed voice, urging Frank to the lab. “We found him passed out in the waiting room. He has no idea how he got there and only wants to speak to you. Thank God I called you, huh?”

“When did this start?”

“We don’t know.”

“If this is a medical emergency, why is he in the lab?”

“We couldn’t find anything wrong with him other than …”

“Hysterical.”

“Yep.” Melissa reached for the door. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

She opened the lab door.

Dan sat on a stool, Andrea holding his hand, while Roy kind of leaned on the counter, elbows down, staring at Dan in some sort of bewilderment.

“There, there,” Andrea patted his hand. “Frank’s here now.”

“Frank!” Dan stood, his legs wobbled. “Oh my God.” He gripped on to Frank, holding tight around his waist, head pressed to his chest. “Oh my God.”

“It’s all right,” Frank said looking to Andrea and mouthing the words, ‘What the fuck’?

Dan was shaking.

“Dan.” Frank called his name. Waited. Nothing. “Dan.” Again no response. “Fuck! Dan! Knock it off!”


Page 3

“Frank!” Andrea scolded. “Be compassionate.”

“Sorry.” Frank said.

Roy snickered.

Dan backed off. “I’m sorry, Frank. I’ll pull it together.”

“Please. Have a seat.”

Dan took in a deep breath and sat down. “I’m traumatized.”

“Obviously.”

“Frank,” Again Andrea scolded.

Dan held up his hand. “I saw his ghost.”

“Who?” Frank asked.

“Your father.”

“Sweet Jesus.” Andrea placed her hand palms to heaven.

“My father’s ghost scared you this bad?” Frank asked.

“Yes.”

“Did he look that bad?”

“I don’t know Frank. It’s made me doubt the beyond.”

Frank scratched his head. “I’m lost.”

“Ok, Joe blew up, right.”

“Yeah.” Frank nodded.

“All that’s left for him to wander around with is … is … is …” Dan burst. “His head. He is a head in the afterlife.”

“A head in the afterlife?” Frank asked for clarification.

“Yes.”

“A head of what?”

“Himself.”

“He’s a head of himself in the afterlife. Was he in a race with himself?”

“Huh?” Dan looked up confused.

“You said he was ahead of himself.”

“Not ahead as in ahead, but a head as in a head.” Dan paused. “He has no body Frank only a head.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. A floating head.”

“Fuck.”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“What kind of head, a full head, old head.”

“His head.” Dan said.

“Fuck.”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“I saw him and that’s the last I recall. Ask him.” Dan pointed.

“Who?” Frank asked.

“Robbie. He saw.”

Robbie turned around. “What’s going on?” He walked into the lab and handed Andrea her coffee.

Roy explained. “Seems Dan has seen the ghost of Joe but only a floating head.”

“Really? Cool.” Robbie nodded. “Ok, I’m out of here.” He turned.

“Wait.” Frank called out.

Robbie stopped. “What?”

“Dan said you saw.”

“He saw,” Dan blurted out emotionally.

“I saw what?”

“Dad’s floating head.”

“Frank.” Robbie dropped his voice to a whisper. “I thought I made it clear I never opened the coffin just the tomb.”

“Sweet Jesus!” Andrea screamed. “You broke into your father’s grave.”

“Sorry.” Robbie shrugged.

“No,” Dan said. “Today, you were talking to Joe’s floating head.”

Frank turned to him. “You were?”

“When?” Robbie asked. “Because if I were, I’d know it.”

Dan explained, “At the trailer. I came to give you a ride.”

“I uh, I didn’t call you for a ride.” Robbie said. “I walked back.” His head cocked when Roy cleared his throat.

Frank asked. “If you were at the trailer, how did you get here?”

“I don’t know.”

“But your jeep is out front.” Frank said.

Roy interjected. “He drove.”

Frank looked at him. “He drove?”

“I drove?” Dan asked.

“I saw him. I was walking in when he pulled up. He drove.”

Robbie made eye contact with Roy, Roy winked.

Roy continued. “Robbie do you know what he’s talking about?”

“No. Not at all. My dad’s floating head?” Robbie fluttered his lips. “Nope, I’d remember that.”

“Strange. Along with the loss of time, memory, seeing things. Any headaches lately, Dan?” Roy asked.

“Come to think of it, yeah.” Dan nodded.

“Sweet Jesus. Jimmy has been complaining of headaches.” Andrea said. “I wonder if he’s having memory loss.”

Frank snapped his finger. “He is.”

“He is?” Robbie asked.

“He is. He fixed the ALS3 and doesn’t remember doing so?”

“He fixed it? When?” Robbie asked.

“Don’t know. He doesn’t even know he got it working yet. I found it. Wait till he finds out.”

“Wow. Cool.” Robbie nodded impressed. “Bet that tells a lot.”

“A lot more than you know. Since you didn’t show up.”

“I had to walk.”

“I came to get you,” Dan said. “I wish I hadn’t.”

“Dean?” Andrea asked. “What are you thinking?”

“Simple. I was worried, hoping it would pass, but it sounds to me like we may be having a few cases of … of …”

“Of?” Andrea asked.

“A brain virus.” Roy nodded.

“What’s it called?”

“Gosh,” Roy fluttered his lips. “Modula oblongata Hypo …desamen … tray …a chica ….titis.”

Everyone blurted out a ‘Huh?’

Roy smiled a tightly closed mouth.

Andrea asked, spilling out the word smoothly, “Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis?”

“Fuck.” Frank looked at her. “You said that well.”

“Yes.” Roy said. “Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis. It’s a strange form of virus that strikes through testosterone every twenty-seven years. This is the year.”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Am I gonna die?” Dan asked.

“Nah, it’ll pass. Some antibiotics, aspirin and rest. You’ll be good to go and won’t have delusions or loss of memory.”

Dan exhaled. “Are you sure.”

“Positive.”

“Praise.” Andrea whispered. “Well now that’s all better. Dan let’s go check your blood pressure and get you some pills.” She helped Dan from the stool.

“Thanks Andrea. Thanks Frank.” He looked at Robbie. “Sorry I dragged you into my delusion.”

“No problem.”

“I’m gonna head out too,” Frank said. “Catch me later little brother.” He gave a swat to Robbie’s arm. “I have some things to talk to you about.”

“Got it.”

Frank walked out behind Andrea and Dan. Robbie after looking a few times, for his latte, found it, lifted it and began to leave.

“Hold it.” Roy called.

“Yeah.” Robbie asked, almost at the door.

“Make some time for me, too. Because a floating head. We need to talk.”

“I think so.” Robbie sipped his latte. “We really do.” A raise of his cup, another sip and Robbie walked out.

*****

‘Ah, peace,” Hal didn’t know why he thought that way every time he pulled back home into Bowman. Usually the euphoric feel lasted briefly, and then something, someone from Beginnings rained on his sunny home parade.

Most of the time it was Elliott.

It was a serious stressful situation, not Frank induced or Beginnings induced that made Hal want to seek out solace. He avoided the mess hall and went directly with Elliott to his office.

Something that required his sleeping on it even though bed was quite a few hours away.

Elliott chuckled, causing Hal to look up while rubbing his temple.

“What, Elliott?”

“You’re still stuck on the sleep on it thing. You haven’t said a word about it, I can see it in your face.”

“What is my brother thinking?”

“He’s thinking that the Great War doesn’t start for months. That this is too small to be part of the Great War. That these soldiers up north are a diversion or are just waiting for a moment.”

“Yes, but …” Hal raised a pencil. “They took one of our men. Hostile.”

“Not part of the plan. Already we have changed the future.”

“How do you figure?”

“Our scouts were chased. We sent them back up there to look for them. We sent our scouts following them because we knew of a great war, had we not known of a great war, we would have never followed them, hence they never would have taken our guy, hence we wouldn’t have found all those …”

“Not another hence, Elliott.”

“Sorry, Captain.”

“So Sgt. Hence, what do we do?”

Elliott smiled. “Wait.”

“An hour ago, you spoke of a Special Forces mission.”

“Yes, yes I did.” Elliott nodded. “But, something inside of me tells me they are going to let our man go.”

“Let him go?”

Elliott nodded. “If that were us. If we were positioning and not wanting to be seen. And we captured one of the enemy long before we were supposed to be known about, I think we would release the soldier with a story.”

“What kind of story would that be?”

“I don’t know.”

At that moment a knock came at the door.

“Come in,” Hal called out.

Jenny poked her head inside. “Busy?”

“Yes,” Hal replied. “Is this an emergency?”

“I should think so, didn’t you get the fax?”

“What fax?” Hal nodded to Elliott, and Elliott stood. He left the office. “Sit down Jenny.”

“Thank you. I just assumed you got the fax when Ben got the fax.”

“Ben from Fabrics got a fax that you felt was an emergency?”

Jenny sniffed and nodded. “You know how Jimmy is sick.”

“Jimmy is sick?” Hal asked.

“Yes, he is in the hospital with a suspected brain tumor.”

Hal knew why Jimmy was put in the clinic. He squeezed the corner of his eyes. “Jenny, I don’t think he has a brain tumor.”

“Neither do I. He has the brain flu. Or virus.”

“What?”

The door opened and Elliott walked in holding a sheet of paper.

“Is that the fax?” Hal asked.

“Yes, Captain. Seems Frank issued a health alert.”

“Good God, for what?”

Elliott read. “A testosterone induced, rare, virus that strikes the brain causing headaches, memory loss, and hallucinations.”

“Frank issued this?”

“Well, it’s signed by Frank, ah, yes, and Andrea.”

“For real?” Hal questioned.

“From the looks of this, this sort of virus, like the bubonic plague makes its way back into circulation every twenty to thirty years.”

“Contagious?”

“Doesn’t say. Only that more information will follow.”

“What all does it say. What we should do? What?”

“It states to make all men aware and should they experience symptoms see the clinic or hospital.”

“This is horrible,” Hal said.

Jenny added. “I heard Dan from Security has it really bad. It was hysterical, and in a near catatonic state he drove to the clinic and passed out in the chair without knowing how he got there, all because he saw Joe’s head.”

Elliott coughed a laugh, cupped his hand over his mouth and said, ‘Excuse me. Sorry.’

Hal held up his hand. “Joe as in my dad.”

“Yes,” Jenny nodded.

“He saw my father’s head? Like in the ground? What?”

“Floating.”

Hal mouthed the word, ‘Floating’ with question. “He saw my father’s head just floating about. Like a bouncing ball to a song or something?”

Elliot hid his snicker.

“I don’t know all the details,” Jenny said.

“Is this why you came? To tell me about my dad’s head?” Hal asked. “Or the virus.”

“No, actually, I came to you because I think your men are going to be scared of this virus, and I just want you to reiterate to them that they have responsibilities.”

“Absolutely. A soldier will soldier.”

“And act.”

“Excuse me?”

“Hal,” Jenny said brightly. “We have full dress rehearsal and then the three day performance of Guys and Dolls, I just want to make sure you let your men know, virus or no virus scare. The show must go on.”

“I’ll …. I’ll remember that.”

“Thanks Hal.” Jenny stood. “I knew I could count on you.”

Hal nodded. Jenny said her pleasant goodbyes and Hal sat dumbfounded.

“Captain?”

“There’s a virus scare and she’s worried about her production of Guys and Dolls?”

“Priorities. You know how the women are.”

“Hmm.” Hal sat back.

“This virus is scary. Anyone can get it. It’s frightening to think a man in a leadership position with it. Scary of right now, Frank comes down with it.”

“Elliott.” Hal snapped forward, folding his hands on the desk. “A virus that causes hallucinations and memory loss. Frank getting it is not scary, what’s scary is, would we even know?”

Elliott laughed.

CHAPTER FOUR

“Sorry I’m late,” Ellen rushed quickly into the cryo lab, arms full of papers. “The clinic is a mad house.”

Danny sat with Roy at the counter. “Why?” Asked Danny.

“That brain virus.”

“What brain virus?” Danny questioned. “I’m on the council and I haven’t heard about it.”

“God, I don’t know why not,” Ellen sat down. “It’s bad. In fact, I need you, Roy to issue a fact sheet on this Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis.”

Danny laughed. He laughed loud. “Modula Oblongata Hypo…”

“Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis,” Ellen stated.

“Is that for real?”

“Yes. Very. Dan confirmed it when he came to the clinic with no memory of how he got there. We think he wandered in a near catatonic state.”

“Dan got to the hospital,’ Danny said with a chuckle. “By …”

“Shear gut instinct.” Roy cut him off. “Amazing how our bodices still function on auto command. People with Narcolepsy often do the same. Wander, walk, and wake up.”

Danny stared at Roy. He didn’t finish his previous thought. If Roy cut him off and stopped him from saying that Robbie brought him, there was a good reason.

“Anyhow,” Ellen said. “Since you know all about this Roy, can you do the fact sheet? And possibly a quick test for us at the clinic.”

Danny raised an eyebrow. “You told about her this.”

“Yes.” Roy replied. “Very scary stuff.”

“I bet,” Danny said suspiciously. “Now onward to our meeting.”

“Time bits was where we left off,” Roy stated. “No matter what, if we change something in the past, everyone will have some sort of memory of it, whether they think it was a dream or, whatever. Not a vivid memory of it happening.”

“But it won’t happen if we changed the future.”

“That is tough to say. Let’s assume for example we go back and stop the original plague. At this point in time, in the changed future, people like you, and Ellen will have a memory or feeling about the plague. It only occurs from the point of time of change. For example. Let’s say we went back to 1980 and killed Ronald Reagan. Every single person alive, right now, at some point in their life, will have envisioned, dreamt, or thought of Ronald Reagan as president. Because it already happened to them so they have memory bits.”

“I don’t have memory bits about Robbie being bad,” Ellen said.

“Yes you do. You just said it.”

“Yeah, but Frank told me.”

“But did he tell you or did he wake a memory bit?”

Danny scratched his head. “I’m being a Frank. I’m confused.”

“And I’m…” Ellen stood up. “Being paged. I’m sorry guys, I have to go. More guys are coming into the clinic with suspected Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis.”

Danny laughed.

“It’s not funny Danny.”

“Sorry.” Danny wiped the smile from his face.

“Gotta go. Can we continue later?” Ellen asked.

“Yes,” Roy said. “I look forward to it.”

“And I …” Danny stood as well. “Have to go see this Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis in action.”

Ellen walked to the door. “If you want a good example talk to Dan from Security.” She opened the door, holding it for Danny. “He saw Joe’s head floating around the Joe Park.”

Danny froze mid stride, grabbing on to the door. He looked over at Roy. “Joe’s head.”

“Yes, but I believe it was by the old trailer.”

Danny was serious then suddenly he laughed. “This is so great.” Still laughing, he walked out.

“Oh sure,” Roy spoke to himself when he was alone. “Joe’s floating head.” He lifted the phone and dialed. “Robbie, where are you? And why are you avoiding me?”

*****

Did Robbie have MDH? Frank had to wonder, in fact, he was thinking of ordering Robbie to be tested for the brain virus, because Robbie seemed so preoccupied.

He was rushing off somewhere, but when Frank asked him where, Robbie couldn’t recall. He pulled Robbie aside to speak about the troops, Frank was pretty certain Robbie wasn’t even listening. He said, ‘Cool, gotta go’ and tried to dart out. Then the final clue came when Frank asked him to go into the Killer Baby region with him. Something brotherly, fun to do and Robbie turned him down.

Ouch.

Frank let him go. Taking Robbie at his word that he promised he’d speak to him soon.

But Frank had to check out the region.

It had been a couple days. Actually, Frank hadn’t been there since the discovery of the alien nest and Harry, the Killer Fetus. However, even though the Killer Babies now toddlers didn’t bother Frank, they were still a threat to the community, and since Frank was the only one who could go up there without danger, he went.

Journey played through his little headset. Don’t Stop Believing played as he crossed through the gates. Faithfully, a fan favorite with the Killer Babies played while he started his rounds up there, but Frank forgot to click to the next one, because the harmonizing singing groans of the babies, turned sour and almost into complaints when ‘Lights’ started to play.

“Sorry guys.” Frank moved it on to Open Arms. Frank, too, started to sing, the Killer Babies liked that. He tromped the perimeter, getting darts and kisses and playful bites from the toddlers.

“Teaching your off spring well, I see.” Frank said. “Good job.” He stopped walking. “What have we here?” He bent down to a fresh puddle of white stuff. “Fuck.” He reached for it, but stopped short. Through the corner of his eye he saw what was becoming a regular sight. A fetus killer baby. It perched up on its tiny hind stumps, embryonic tail swinging. Frank extended his index finger to it and it nipped him.

“Hey,” Frank said with a flick to the little guy. It fell over. Snickering, Frank grabbed his phone. “Sorry little guy.” He dialed. “Hey…” he dropped his voice to a whisper. “D... E … A … N. How are you?”

“Frank? Why are you whispering spelling my name?”

“No one is supposed to know I’m talking to you.”

“Frank if you don’t want anyone to know, I’m sure they can spell.”

“No, I don’t think so. I mean they may. Fuck. You don’t think they can now do you?”

“Yeah, Frank. I’m positive they can.”

“Fuck. You think they heard me.”

“Who cares? They don’t know you’re talking to the Dean in hiding.”

“True. Fuck.”

“What?”

“They spell.”

“Yeah.”

“Next thing you know they’ll be fucking making things.”

“They already do.”

“Man.”

“Why are you calling?”

Frank paused. “Oh, yeah, sorry. I was doing my round in the Killer Toddler region and I found more of that stuff. You know the stuff that looks like sperm.”

“Did you see another nest nearby?”

“I can go look.”

“Is that where you’re at? The Killer Baby region.”

“Toddler. Yeah.”

“Ok, makes sense. What I said about them being able to spell…” Dean’s words trailed off.

Frank waited. “Yeah?”

“Never mind. Anyhow, check for a nest. Ok? See what you can find. We have to determine how long gestation it is, and how many are growing in each nest. Do you see any of the fetus running about?”

“Sliding.”

“Ok, do you?”

“Do I what?”

“See any?” Dean asked.

“A few.”

“What did the clone say?”

“About this? Who knows he’s not here.”

“No, Frank about the fetus you brought him.”

A hesitation. “Um, he was cute?”

Dean growled.

“What?”

“You took the fetus to Roy for DNA testing. Did he work on it?”

“I doubt it, we had him on something else.”

Dean breathed heavily through the phone. “Ok, you know what bring me my Killer Fetus stuff back here, I’ll work on it. I have time.”

“Excellent. Because, Dean we may have a way now to stop the Killer Toddler take over that you saw in the future.

“I know. Thanks for letting me know this. See you soon, Frank.”

Frank closed down the phone, and hands on hips, looked around. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, no more carcasses and that was a good thing. But for now, while he had time and while he was in a thinking mode, he was going to get the things Dean needed.

 

He stopped by the office and picked up his jeep, he’d need it to go to Dean’s place, and before heading down to the cryo lab he stopped for some baked goods, Dean would like those as well.

The cryo lab door was closed, and Frank buzzed himself in. An aroma of clean hit him the second he stepped inside. He missed the days of the disgusting smells, where things died in the lab and Dean forgot.

“Hello, Frank.”

“Hello,” Frank replied. “Nice bow tie.”

“Thank you.” Roy fixed his tie. “What can I do for you?”

“Remember I brought you that Killer Toddler slash fetus nesting stuff to test for DNA.”

“Oh!”

“What?”

“I forgot about the testing, I should have remembered this morning when you came down for Harry.”

“We didn’t really talk much then.”

“True. I was only here for a moment. Then we left.”

“Ok, well, not to insult you or anything, but Dean is gonna work on it now.”

“No insult, Frank.”

“Good.” Frank nodded. “I’ll gather the stuff.

“The cooler is in the big fridge.”

“Thanks,” Frank walked back, a few moments later returned with the cooler that contained the nesting material. He reached the counter and saw the metal net, and then turned to the cage. “Where’s Harry.”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you let him out?” Frank asked.

“No, you took him out this morning to play with him.”

“That’s right.” Frank snapped his finger.

“Did you forget to latch the cage when you brought him back?”

“I doubt it. I fuckin never forget to … to…” Frank pivoted, hard left and right.

“Frank?”

“What?”

“Did you bring him back?”

“Um … no.”

“Did you lose him?”

Frank fluttered his lips. “No, I just forgot I uh, took him uh, somewhere else. Yeah.” He hurriedly snatched up the cooler. “Gotta run. Gotta run. Thanks.” He took a few steps, paused, hunched down and looked under the counter.

“Frank? Drop something.”

“No. Thought I saw dirt. Nothing there. Clean. Thanks.” A few more steps, Frank took one more peek around, and left the lab.

In the hallway, after the door closed, he paused. “Fuck. What the fuck did I do with him?”

*****

Finally.

First Robbie had to take Dan, then he had to get coffee, the steamer broke, then he not only had to bring Andrea her drink, but got into a conversation. Nine times Roy had called him to discuss the floating head.

On the way back to the old trailer, Danny Hoi stopped him to show him something he couldn’t figure out how to fix.

Finally.

A short fifteen minutes turned into an hour and Robbie was going to be pissed if he got back to the trailer and his father was gone.

But that wasn’t the case.

Robbie flung open the door, chest heaving in anticipation. He closed it behind him. “Dad?”

“Robert.”

“Yes!” He clenched his fist.

Joe stepped into the living room. He was wearing a tee shirt and boxer shorts, holding a glass. He sat on the couch.

“I am so glad you didn’t put the suit back on,” Robbie sat on the chair cattycorner to the couch. “It is so good to see you.”

“It’s nice that you see me, too.” Joe nodded.

“Dad, why do you seem kind of … I don’t know…”

“Pissed.”

“Yes.”

“Why do you think? I went through this elaborate thing to make sure I was out of the picture and you wouldn’t let me rest in peace.”

“Dad in my defense, I did think you were dead.”

“What made you not?” Joe asked.

“Your fingerprints on the explosive.”

“Christ. Does anyone else know?”

“Um, Dean.” Robbie replied.

“Dean in Beginnings.”

“Dad, what other Dean would there be?” Robbie snickered.

Joe just looked at him. “How did you find the crumbs?”

“Looking for the clone.”

“Bingo.”

“So, only the real Dean knows about the fingerprints and he’s out of Beginnings.”

“Yeah, him and Jason.”

“Christ.” Joe rubbed his eyes. “Ok, who knows I’m alive.”

“Just me.”

“Good.”

“But Dean and Jason suspect. Jason made the ink gun. They really started suspecting after me and Dean dug up your body.”


Page 4

“Robert!”

“What?” Robbie asked innocently. “You would have done the same. “Dad. That you, had gray hair.”

“I know. That me saw some shit that made my hair gray.”

“Can I …” Robbie folded his hands, leaning into Joe. “Can I ask why and what happened.”

“You can ask, I really can’t tell you anything. Other than … I did it for a damn good reason.”

“Nearest we could figure is a decision you made in the Great War that wasn’t a good one. I mean, the Aragon window screwed it up, theoretically.”

“Yep. Dean was supposed to die. Dean died, I died. Dean lived so he saved me, I lived. Frank … Frank wasn’t president.”

“Hence you making a different decision.”

“Exactly.” Joe lifted his glass and finished his drink.

“Do you know what it was that happened?”

“Nope,” Joe said. “I never got there. Remember that.”

“Can you at least tell me how it occurred?” Robbie asked.

“The clone, slash Dean came to me right before Jason got the message from the future. He forewarned me about the Great War, figuring if I saw it coming, I could do something about it.”

“He give you any details?”

“No.” Joe shook his head. “Just that. Then a day or two before the explosion, he came to me again. Only this time he brought me. I’ll tell ya, was a scary sight to see that me. I knew, as soon as I looked at hi that, I fucked up. We set it up by using my future me to die in the explosion. I was supposed to go back in time, 1930 or something when life was simple, and age some. Whatever, stay out of the picture. But the time machine broke, so I wore the invisible suit.”

“So you have to stay out of the picture until a certain point and you can return?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know what that point is?” Robbie asked.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

Joe raised his eyes to Robbie. “Christ would I lie.”

“You faked your death.”

Joe grumbled. “I don’t know. I don’t want to know. The clone knows and the clone will let me know when that moment in history has passed. It’s the big decision is all he told me and I messed it up.”

“I can’t see that, Dad,” Robbie said passionately. “You are a good leader.”

“Bingo.” Joe pointed. “I am. My humanity was my downfall. That’s what Roy said. He told me I made the decision many leaders would have made. The humane decision.”

Robbie started laughing.

“What?” Joe asked.

“Well, you made a humane decision. Obviously when this occurs, it is something that requires someone who is cold and doesn’t give a shit.”

“Frank.”

“Frank.”

Joe snickered. “He may not be the brightest bulb in the drawer, but when it comes to the military shit. He’s good.”

“That’s true. I really thought he was in on this with you.”

Joe shook his head. “He of all people can’t know.”

“He’s gonna be pissed when he finds out.”

“He’ll get over it. Besides, I thought he knew.”

Robbie tilted his head. “Why do you say that?”

“He never mourned me. Grieved me. Kind of pissed me off.”

“Me, too.” Silence. Pause. “You think he knows.”

“Nah,” Joe said. “He’s just being … he’s just being Frank.”

*****

“I am.”

Dean looked curiously at Frank when he opened the front door to him standing there. “You are what, Frank?”

“I am here.”

“Ok.”

“Didn’t you just say, I think Frank is here?”

“No, I thought it.”

“Wow, I still got it.” Frank walked inside.

“Still got what?”

“The mind reading thing. Here …” Frank handed Dean the cooler. “Put this away.”

“Thanks. Wanna come in?” Dean asked.

“For a second. I’m looking for something?”

“What?”

“Um … something.”

Dean nodded, set down the cooler. “Where’s Harry. I have his cage all ready.”

“Harry?” Frank asked.

“Killer Fetus.”

“You don’t have him?” Frank questioned.

“Oh my God.”

“What?”

“Oh my God you lost the Killer Fetus,” Dean said.

“No I didn’t. I just …. Put him somewhere and I can’t remember where.”

“Frank!” Dean snapped. “How do you lose a Killer Fetus?”

“I didn’t lose him. I was playing with him. I’m sure I put him somewhere.”

Jason walked into the foyer. “What’s going on?”

“Frank lost a Killer Fetus,” Dean replied.

“Technically,” Frank held up a finger. “He’s too small to be a killer. Annoying Fetus. Biting fetus. Pinching fetus but not …”

“Frank.” Dean said his name stern.

“What?”

“You lost him.”

“Ok, I did. I’ll find him though.”

Jason interjected. “I’m sure you will Frank, I have the utmost confidence in you.”

“Thank you Jason.” Frank began to leave. “I have to go. I’ll stop by later. Jason, do you need a ride back?”

“No, thank you. I’m good.”

“Frank,” Dean called out. “I’ll need another.”

“Another what?”

“Killer Fetus.”

“Biting fetus.”

“Whatever, I need another. Can you get me one?”

“That will be easy. I can find them. Maybe he went back home.”

“Who?” Dean asked.

“Harry. Maybe he went back to the nest. I can ask the fetuses since they can spell now maybe they can talk.”

“Maybe,” Dean said. “Good luck let me know how that conversation turns out.”

“I will.” Frank reached for the door.

“Oh, Frank,” Jason stopped him. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Who was Ronald Reagan?”

Frank stared at Jason for a moment, he stared very seriously. “Is that a trick question?”

“No, a serious one. Who was he?”

“It’s a test.”

“No, just a question.”

“Why? Don’t you know?”

“No, I know,” said Jason. “I want to see if you do.”

“A leadership thing. Huh?” Frank nodded.

“Exactly. Who was he?’

“Who?”

“Ronald Reagan,” Jason snapped, then quickly regained his composure.

“Oh.” Frank paused. “He was the fuckin president. Wait. He was the fuckin awesome president of the United States. Fuckin ended the cold war with a statement. Bring down that wall.”

Jason smiled. “And what of his psychic ability.”

“He had psychic ability?”

“You didn’t know about all his predictions?”

“No. He made them?”

“Yes.”

“Wow, where was I?”

Jason rubbed his chin. “That’s what I’d like to know. Where were you about two hours ago?”

“Jason,” Frank snickered. “Ronald Reagan didn’t make predictions two hours ago.”

“I know. But where were you?”

“In the communications room.”

Jason turned to Dean. “Below ground. Who was with you?”

“A bunch of people.”

“Can you do me a favor and ask them if they know about Ronald Reagan’s predictions?’

“I can do that while I’m looking for Harry.”

“Good.” Jason patted him, on the back. “Good luck.”

“Thanks. See you guys tonight.” Frank opened the door and walked out.

The moment he left, Dean saw the look on Jason’s face. “What? What are you thinking?”

“Frank doesn’t know.”

“About Reagan?” Dean laughed. “It’s Frank.”

“Yes, think about it. Of all people Frank would be into that psychic shit about him.”

“So.”

“So, what if... What if because of where he was he was immune to the time change.”

“Is that possible?”

“Possible, yes.”

“Ok. That would be cool. But before we make any determinations, we still have to remember,” Dean said. “That was Frank.”

CHAPTER FIVE

He got coffee or a latte everyday along with a Danish, how his father accomplished this, Robbie didn’t know. But he was about to find out. Joe claimed he was quite versed at the invisi suit, and he gave Robbie instructions on what to do.

He sported the suit, but before he did. Robbie had to ask. He had to know.

Was Andrea aware?

Joe resounded with a strong, “hell no. I love my wife, but she drives me nuts. Do you honestly think that’s I’d hang around her all the time?”

“Do you hang around her at all?”

“Actually, not really, no.”

“Then how does she speak to you?”

“She doesn’t.” Joe replied. “I’ve been there, I’ve heard her have conversations. I’m not saying a word, she’s just whacked.”

“That’s just wrong, making her sound crazy.”

“She is and if you keep talking to me people will think you are, too.”

Robbie laughed as they rounded the bend in town. But as they did, he heard the slight whisper of disgust in the form of the word ‘Christ’ come from his father. Robbie looked back, of course he wasn’t going to see Joe, he was in the invisible suit. Another whisper another word, ‘Frank’, made Robbie look back toward town.

There was Frank in the Joe Park, but he wasn’t walking, sitting or jogging as some people had taken to doing, he was … looking. At the base of the flagpole, around the grass, in the small bush. He’d look, scratch his head, look again.

“I have to know.” Robbie said, changing direction and walking toward the park. “With me?” he whispered.

“Unfortunately.”

With a wide grin, Robbie, moved in a sneaky manner to the park. “Hey Frank. Uh, did you lose something?”

“Um. No.” Frank stood up.

“You look like you’re looking for something.”

“No.” Frank replied quickly.

Robbie smiled.

“Ok. Fine.” Hands on hips, Frank leaned into Robbie whispering, “I lost a fetus.”

“You lost a what?”

“Fetus? Killer Fetus. Well, biting fetus.”

“In Beginnings?”

“I think. Not sure. I borrowed him to play with him. I set him down somewhere and I forgot.” Frank shook his head. “No, not like with the dog. Why would you think that?”

Robbie stammered. “Um, I don’t know. Just popped into my mind.” He quickly shifted his eyes. “Where was the last place you saw him.”

“In my hand.”

“Makes sense. Where were you last playing with him?”

“I think at the house. Not sure.”

“Have you checked the dining womb?”

“No, but I will. Thanks.” Suddenly Frank’s eyes widened.

“What?” Robbie asked.

“That wasn’t nice.”

“Sorry, Frank, I was trying to be funny.”

“Thinking someone is a moron is not funny.”

‘Fuck’ Robbie thought.

“Now you’re swearing at me.”

“Frank! Quit reading my mind.”

“Sorry, it was just loud.”

“What exactly do you think you think I thought?” Robbie asked.

“I think you thought, Christ what a moron.’

“There you have it,” Robbie said. “I wasn’t thinking about you. I didn’t say your name.”

“Who were you thinking about?”

“Who?”

“Yeah, who?” Frank repeated.

“Christ.”

“You were thinking Christ is a moron. That’s fucked up.”

”Well,” Robbie shrugged. “I was having a fucked up religiously doubting moment. You’ll have those once and a while.”

“True.”

“Ok, well, I’ll let you go. If you need help finding the fetus, let me know.”

“I will. But I’m sure he’ll turn up. Keep an eye out.”

“I will.” Robbie gave a thumbs up and headed back toward the bakery. However in route, between listening to his father’s grumbles of ‘I didn’t miss this’, Robbie kept looking back at Frank, who kept on searching for that lost Killer Fetus.

*****

He had spent his life in another world, the same planet, only another time. Another way of technology. Now Fort was stuck in the beginning of it all. Condemned, he felt to live a life he had read about in history books. But that history had started to change. If he ever were able to go back, it would be a different place.

That’s what he figured.

He couldn’t tell anyone of events, even if he did, it didn’t matter. He knew already things had changed.

Would it make a difference? Not to Fort. He didn’t have family, no one he loved, and he wasn’t raised that way. He was raised to be a soldier and that was it. That was the only life he knew.

He made two friends in Beginnings. One, a soldier named Bob who came though the time machine as well. A different time, a different life, and a little girl who was zapped through just because.

That was it.

He wasn’t given a job yet. Nor was Bob. They were told to just wait once they were released.

He spent his days reading books that were never available to him, because they had long since been destroyed, and he also wrote a book. Or at least started to. And worked on theories on who was the clone. Fort was on his mission to find the clone, yet never did.

A soldier always completes the mission. Fort would at least, even if he couldn’t get the clone back, find him.

Bob on the other hand never fully understood his mission. He just went. He also couldn’t even read, Fort vowed to make that his project. Teach him to read. All Bob knew was to attack, kill and eliminate the LEP, or Killer Babies as Beginnings referred to them.

It was midafternoon and something was stirring in Beginnings, he could sense it in the air.

Frank was acting strange. Looking on the ground constantly, and into everything. He was in the library checking each book.

Danny Hoi didn’t make his usual rounds, and where was Henry.

Everyone seemed to be hiding somewhere.

He hoped it wasn’t the start of the Great War. He knew that was coming.

He stopped by Distribution, got his weekly order of supplies, placed himself on the list for the Dan Tran and after taking his things back to his place, he decided to take a walk.

The roadway led him to agriculture, then eventually to a gated region with Warning signs posted left and right.

Do not leave this area, the signs said. Even one that said, ‘Chance it’. Fort had to wonder who wrote that one.

There were indications that the fence was more charged, if that were possible than the other areas. Unlike the back gate, the bottom of the fence was encased in concrete as if stopping something from digging through.

Digging through.

When Fort thought of that, he knew what the region was.

He stepped closer.

“Six inches will zap you,” Frank called out from behind him.

“I won’t go any closer,” Fort said, turning to see Frank approaching.

“It has to be that way.”

“I figured as much. Is this the famous first LEP farm?”

“LEP farm?” Frank laughed.

“Sorry Killer Baby farm.”

“Toddlers, they’ve grown.”

“They will grow faster too.”

“Why do you call it a farm?”

“This is just what the history books called it. One big area they stayed at.”

“I feed them. That keeps them in the area.”

“Who …” Fort asked. “Told you to put concrete here?”

“That’s new,” Frank said. “Why?”

“Just curious, because ... In the history books, the LEP dug their way in one day. So now, with this, I don’t see that happening, because the books said a simple concrete foundation would have stopped it.”

“It will.”

“So what made you put this here? Did someone tell you?” Fort questioned, and in his mind, he deduced it was either Bob or the clone.

Frank shrugged after a long hard look at Fort. “I had a dream.”

“Really. Wow. Awfully prophetic. Must be your time frame.” He looked back out to the area. “I mean you guys had the greats like John Edwards and Ronald Reagan …”

“Ronald Reagan was a president. I’m not sure about him being a psychic. But you never know. He smoked a lot of pot, I think. Not sure.”

Fort chuckled. “I’d like to try pot one day. I heard it was a big thing in the old world.”

“Big thing in Beginnings too. Talk to Dan from Security, he’ll hook you up.”

“Cool.”

“It’s not so bad here,” Frank spoke. “I know it must be lonely for you. But give it time. Ok?”

“All I have is time.”

“For now. Once you start being a soldier for Beginnings you won’t have it.”

“I’d like to be a soldier for the Great War.”

“Oh, yeah?” Frank smiled. “Gonna share some secrets.”

“I wish. I don’t think I can.”

“You’re not under any oath anymore.”

“No, that’s not it.” Fort shook his head. “A lot has changed already.”

“Like my death.”

Fort nodded. “Exactly. You died in that explosion my history.”

“Wonder what happened.”

“I don’t know. But I bet the clone had something to do with it.”

Frank gave an up of his chin. “Ever figure out who that is?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

“I will.”

“Maybe he’s gone,” Frank said. “Maybe the clone left.”

“Nah, he’s here. I feel it. I have a bit of Ronnie Reagan power, too you know.”

Frank laughed. “What are you gonna do if you find him?”

“Shake his hand.”

“Really?” Frank tilted his head. “Can I ask why?”

“Because, whatever he is doing here, he is doing for the best of mankind. And I believe, his cause will bring the right change. And stop this world from getting as fucked up as it gets.” Fort stared into the Killer Baby region. “God willing.”

*****

Roy checked up on Jimmy who seemed to not only be resting, but enjoying the attention he was getting. He said his headaches were better of course, Roy was instructed by Ellen to give him something strong and something that would make him loopy. Roy wasn’t sure about the term loopy, but he gave him something strong.

Dan was recovering… from basically nothing. Roy was still waiting to talk to Robbie about that.

But he saved the best for last, and as soon as he stopped by the lab he was going to see that special patient Frank was telling him about. Patient A.

Patient A was to be a secret and no one really to know he was there getting testing. He had a brain tumor that Dean had removed and Frank wanted to make sure that the brain tumor was still gone, could he fly his jets, and was there anything Roy could do with his futuristic technology to prevent the tumor? Roy would have to work on that one, he really didn’t work much with tumors in the future considering most people were more concerned with death via plague, starvation, cholera, or LEPs.

What was so special about this patient?

Roy would soon find out.

 

It was the type of flying suit the Air Force wore in the world before the plague. Johnny sitting on top of the bed held it up and smiled.

“You like?” George asked.

“I love it. It’s says CS though.”

“Yes it does. We’re all part of the same team. Think of my army as just another branch. I wanted you to have that. Only I can approve your rank for that uniform.”

“Second Lieutenant. Thank you.”

“So you’ll do it?” George asked. “Ready to come back, fly and well, teach.”

“Absolutely, as long as I get the go ahead from Dean.”

“Speaking of which.” George nodded to the door.

Roy moved inside the door and immediately to the sink.

Johnny whispered to George. “Since when did Dean start wearing cowboy boots?”

“Maybe it’s another midlife crisis.”

After drying his hands, Roy stepped further in. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Johnny. “Wow.”

Johnny snickered. “Wow to you too.”

Roy nodded then turned to George. “Hello Hap.”

“No, Hello George.” George corrected.

“No Dean. My name is Dean not George.”

“And I’m George not Hap.”

“Yes.” Roy snapped his fingers. “I knew that. Forgive me. You both are elderly and sometimes you look alike.”

Johnny laughed out loud.

“Yeah, well, you look like Henry.” George nodded, and then with a wink, gave Johnny’s ankle a squeeze as he walked by. “See you later on.”

“See ya George.”

“Wait.” Roy called out. “How can I look like Henry? He’s Asian.”

“I don’t know. You just do.” George walked out.

Roy immediately ran to the mirror. “Oh, I do not. He jokes.”

“You ok Dean?” Johnny asked.


Page 5

“Yes. And you are in the hospital so you are not.”

“Oh my God.”

“What?”

“I have another brain tumor.”

Quickly, Roy flipped the chart. “No. No you do not. You scared me for a second. I thought I missed something.”

Johnny snickered. “And are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yes, just stunned to see you.” Roy moved to the bed. “Very stunned. No wonder you are kept a secret.”

“Tell me about it. I had to be snuck in.”

“Did Frank sneak you in?”

“Yep.”

Roy nodded. “That Frank is clever.”

“Uh …” Johnny laughed. “Yeah.”

“This is amazing.” Roy peered closer to Johnny. Just staring. He tilted his head left to right. “Last I saw you, you were still growing.”

“Something like that.”

“Tell me. How did you get back here?”

“Back here?”

“Yes, how did you travel here from …?”

“Oh.” Johnny sang out. “Sorry. The pilgrimage.”

“Is that what they call it now?”

“Yeah.” Johnny shrugged.

“Do you know about yourself? How medically you are different?”

“Yeah. Unfortunately.” Johnny replied. Not knowing why Dean was asking him these questions. Perhaps testing his memory post tumor. “Am I able to fly?”

“You do not have wings.”

“A ha, ha, ha.” Johnny nodded. “Funny. Jets. Can I fly jets?”

“Do you know how?’

“Of course. I want to know if the pressure will harm me.”

“You are fine to be in jets. Now, back to my questions.”

“About?’

“Have you been treated differently?” Roy asked.

“Um, yeah, what do you think?”

“Were you isolated?”

“Still am.”

Roy gasped. “Is that because Frank keeps you hidden?”

“I guess. It’s to stop people from getting irate, I guess. You know with me. But I spend a lot of time alone.”

“Oh, I know how that is.”

“Go out only at night.”

“So people do not see you.”

Johnny nodded

“We should hang out. Play cards. Chess. We have a lot in common.”

Johnny raised his eyes. “I’d really like that.”

“Me, too.”

With a clomp-clomp, ‘Hey’, Frank entered the room. “How’s it going?”

“Frank!” Roy said brightly. “No wonder you kept this a secret!”

“Yeah, you see that now.”

“Wow he is amazing. Coming along nicely.” Roy touched Johnny’s head. “Imperfections and all.”

“You think.”

“Very much.” Roy exhaled. “Wow. Does anyone else know about him?”

“Just George.”

“Oh, yes, the elderly man that looks like Hap.”

Johnny raised a crocked smiled. ‘Dean, again, you seem …”

Frank interrupted. “Very happy today.”

“I am.” Roy smiled. “Especially after my meeting with this young man.”

Johnny nodded. “We’re gonna hang out and play chess.”

Frank looked at Roy. “Oh, yeah? You think you can beat my son at Chess?”

“I did not say …” Roy paused. “Your son? Who is your son?”

Johnny raised his hand.

Roy gasped. “This is your son? It’s not RR44173?”

Both Frank and Johnny shook their heads.

“Whoops. Sorry. I’m bad.” With a quick spin, Roy flew out.

“Dad? RR44173?” Johnny looked at him with question.

“Eh, don’t mind Dean. It’s his chip. He needs a tune up.” Frank waved out his hand. “Ready?”

Johnny stood from the bed. “Ready. Oh, hey, check out what George gave me.” He showed Frank the flight suit.

“This is really nice. You’ll look all fuckin official when you …” Frank’s eyes widened.

“What?”

“A lieutenant?”

“Yeah, George …”

“No. No, not another Slagel being an officer.”

“I can’t be a pilot and enlisted man.”

“The hell you can’t.” Frank reached for the bars on the uniform.

“Hey, hey, are you stripping me of my rank?”

“Yep. I’ll give you a new one.”

“Dad. You can’t strip me. George authorized that. He runs the CS army.”

“Yeah, but I’m the fuckin president. I run him.” Frank gripped the bars and grinned. “Let’s go.”

Johnny grumbled. He would have complained more, but instead he basked. Basked in the fact that his father was being … his father with him again.

*****

Money was getting tight. They could only go back to poor Dean’s bank account so many times. So Jason, donned an invisible suit, went back in time, hit a Chinese Restaurant and stole someone’s order. It wasn’t right, but it was a special night.

At Dean’s home he set the moo shu on a platter with egg rolls, the entire house smelled wonderful.

The places were set, booze was ready, and the special guest was set to arrive.

“19.” Dean stated as he returned to the room.

“19 what?”

“So far, 19 different types of genetic make ups were found in the nesting.”

“But Frank only brought back a small portion.”

“Exactly,” Dean said. “Which is worrisome. If a small portion tells me it held 19 Killer Babies, how many does an entire nest hold.”

“That’s a frightening prospect.”

“Which would explain why we get run over in the future.” Dean looked to the food. “Can I steal an egg roll?”

“No, we’ll wait for Joe.”

“Joe.”

“Joe,” Jason sighed out. “I am so excited. But …” Jason looked his watch. “Where is he?”

 

“Christ Robbie.” Joe bounced in his seat. They had pulled over a few miles before Dean’s so he could remove the invisa suit.

“Sorry, I just have to get back to Beginnings.”

“I know.”

“I want to learn the ALS3. Plus I want to avoid Roy.”

“He’s not a bad guy. Just strange.”

“And you probably didn’t help that.”

“No,” Joe shook his head. “I didn’t want to ruin him. He knows I’m alive, why are you avoiding him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Make sure you don’t go to that meeting without me tomorrow. I want to hear about those soldiers up north.”

“I thought you weren’t going to influence.”

Joe shot a look Robbie’s way. “If I’m invisible and quiet, how am I gonna influence.”

“Frank will read your mind.”

“No, Frank will read your mind, think it’s you and do his own thing. Besides, I want to keep note. I want to mark down what I would do and see what Frank does to see how that affected the Great War.”

“Hopefully, positively.”

“Hopefully. We went through a lot of trouble. It had to be bad.”

“You should have seen your future corpse.”

“I can imagine.”

Robbie slowed down the jeep. “We’re here. You’re sure you’ll ride back with Jason.”

“I’m fine.”

In a few seconds, Robbie had stopped the jeep. “You look nervous.”

“Not nervous. Anxious,” Joe stepped from the jeep. “I missed my friend. I can’t wait to see him.”

“What about me?”

“I had you my whole life.” Joe stepped out and stopped. “Robert.”

Robbie looked at him.

“I’m glad you discovered my whereabouts and the truth.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. I am.” Joe winked. “It makes it all a lot better now going through this with you.”

Robbie smiled. “Thanks, Dad. Have a good night.”

Joe nodded, gave a proud look to Robbie, and then turned to walk to the house.

*****

One wouldn’t expect much more from Jason, but the look upon his face when he opened the door, told Joe all he needed to know. Jason was happy to see him.

He said nothing, smiled, opened the door wider and when Joe stepped inside, Jason embraced him.

“Good to see you, Joe.”

“Good to see you smiling, Jason.”

They were mid-breaking the embrace when Joe pulled back at the sound of scurrying and thumping.

Dean as if he tripped his way into the room, appeared. “Joe.”

“Dean.”

“Joe!” Dean raced to Joe, like a child he put his arms around Joe’s waist, his head to Joe’s midsection.

“Nice. Nice.” Joe patted him and moved back. “Christ, you guys act like I was dead.”

Both Jason and Dean stared at him.

“It’s good though, feels damn good to be able to be out of that suit and talk to someone else besides the clone.”

“The, uh clone, huh?” Dean scratched his head. “What’s he like?”

“You want to meet him?” Joe asked.

“I don’t know. Do I?”

Joe shook his head. “He’d intimidate the hell out of you.”

“How’s that?”

“He looks like you, is super intelligent, and a nice guy.”

“I’m a nice guy and super intelligent.”

“No, Dean, he’s super intelligent.”

Jason snickered. “That’s funny. Joe, come in, we have dinner. Bet you’re starved.”

“Actually I am.” Joe followed to the dining room. “I mean I’ve been living off of …” He paused. “Did Danny Hoi do something new or is that Chinese takeout.”

Jason nodded. “It’s Chinese takeout.”

“How the hell did you get Chinese takeout?”

Jason shrugged. “Went to a Chinese restaurant in 1998.”

“Why 1998?” Dean asked.

“Ah,” Joe held up a finger. “Height of the Clinton Administration. Chinese Restaurants were a dime a dozen due to his China policies.”

Jason nodded. “Exactly.”

“So you used the time machine, you got it working?” Joe questioned.

“Actually, no. I used the HG Wells.” Jason replied.

“It’s broke.”

“It was a glitch.”

“It works?” Joe asked.

“Brilliantly.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Joe placed his hands in his pockets. “It works. Don’t tell the clone though, this place isn’t ready for him to go back.”

“Yes, but look at this. You are out of hiding,” Jason said. “Even if only semi. We now can get a glimpse into the future to make sure you aren’t having a bad influence, and if you are, we can work to change it. Already, Joe, it has worked.”

“My death worked.”

“We’ve been there. Briefly, but enough to see a big change from the last time I sent Hal, Frank and Robbie to the future.”

“Beginnings was there?”

“Yes.”

Joe clenched his fist. “Yes. Excellent. Let’s keep this path until the point where I can emerge.”

“We plan on it.”

“So um, aside from Chinese food, you used the machine for anything else.”

Jason looked at Dean then to Joe. “We’ve had some fun. And Joe, the best part is, it’s endless. Any place, any time.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“You know I was supposed to go time traveling to pass time to make sure I don’t interfere at all,” Joe said. “I’d love to try that with you Jason. Might make a boring day go faster.”

“Anywhere you want to go,” Jason said. “Have any ideas? “

“As a matter of fact,” Joe rubbed his chin. “I do.”

 

CHAPTER SIX

How so many people could need so many things from him, Robbie didn’t know. He made it back in time to get the security schedules done, but then he made the mistake of putting Jimmy on duty. He had to change that, because according to Frank, Jimmy had to still believe he had that brain virus so he would realize he didn’t fix the ALS3.

But the next day would bring an end to that.

Frank planned on telling Jimmy the next day the wonders he accomplished while under the influence of a testosterone induced virus.

So, security schedule done, Robbie thought he was in the clear. Until he saw Henry, he was complaining to Robbie that he had to make a run in the morning, when he was beyond that.

Not Robbie’s responsibility to assign him to a run. That was Frank’s. Go to him. It wasn’t Robbie’s fault that half the men were out with a virus that didn’t even exist.

Robbie even contemplated faking the virus just to get some time off.

Which he hadn’t.

There was a lot Robbie wanted to do, especially since he discovered his father was still alive.

One of them was to spend time with his dad.

He never realized how much he needed, loved and adored his father until he was gone, now he had the chance to make it up.

Robbie’s triple life was catching up to him. But by night, he had gotten through the security job, and managed to swipe a bottle from Distribution for a little ‘alone time’ drinking.

He had just finished up, locked the office, and was heading home when he heard something behind him. He didn’t think much about it until he felt this huge blow to his back. Whatever hit him, slammed into his back, knocking him off balance but not off his feet?

“Fuck,” Robbie spun around. “Are you trying to knock me over?”

“Yes,” Roy replied. “I had to catch you.”

“Call me.” Robbie lit a cigarette.

“I did. Nineteen times.”

“I know.”

“Robbie, we need to talk.”

“About what?” Robbie continued to walk.

Roy reached out and grabbed his arm. “Joe’s floating head.”

Robbie exhaled.

 

It felt a little weird going to Roy’s place, which was actually Dean’s place that he shared with Richie. Weird because Richie was on the couch and Robbie went upstairs with Roy.

But Roy needed privacy and had some things he said he had to show Robbie.

“I think you and I know what Joe’s floating head means,” Roy said.

“Dan is nuts?”

“Robbie. Come on.”

“What?”

“Tell me what it means?” Roy asked.

“You say it.”

“No, I asked you first.”

“But I told you to say it first.”

“Fine,” Roy huffed. “It means Joe is alive.”

“And why do you say that?”

“Because I am the one responsible and you know it.”

“Ok, so, if you know it, why are you coming to me?”

“Curious.” Roy shrugged. “I figured you may have questions since we both share a secret.”

“I do.”

“You may ask. But first let me say your father is a wonderful person.”

“I know.”

“How did you know? How did you figure it out?”

“Easy. Fingerprints. His fingerprints were all over the explosion. Plus …” Robbie held up his hand. “You guys were at the trailer together. I found his DNA on a half-eaten sandwich.”

“Shoot.” Roy snapped his finger. “Joe’s prints on the explosive I thought might come up. Maybe.”

“Maybe?”

“Yes. I mean who would run a dead man’s prints.”

“True.”

“But I forgot about the keen ability people in this time have with investigating. You probably discovered the prints first, started looking for answers, and found the sandwich.”

“Something like that.”

“Please, have a seat.” Roy indicated to a chair as he sat on the end of the bed. “I would like to speak about all that occurred.”

“Really? Cool.”

“Yes. Cool. It is heavy on me. Because it was so difficult.”

“I bet.”

“No.” Roy shook his head. “More difficult than you would think. Cause this whole ‘Joe died’ wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.”

Robbie tilted his head.

Roy began his story, “We need to go back to the beginning of March.” He reached into the nightstand drawer and pulled out a flat black box about six inches long. “When I showed your father this.”

Robbie took the box and listened to the story.

 

“Hello, Joe.”

Joe was seated behind his desk, and he raised his eyes when the office door opened. “Hello, Dean, since when did you stop knocking.”

“Oh, many apologies.” Roy stepped back out and knocked.

“Christ, come in.”

“Thank you.” Roy stepped inside. “Hello, Joe.”

“Again, hello, Dean. What’s up? I’m a busy man.”

“Oh, yes, I know this.” Roy pulled up a chair. Then he stared.

“What?”

“It is an honor.”

“Christ. Dean, are you drunk? Taking your own pills. What?”

“I am not Dean.”

“A-huh. You’re not.”

“No.”

“How long haven’t you been Dean?”

“My whole life.”

“Hold that thought.” Joe reached for his phone.

“Who are you calling?”

“Danny Hoi.”

“Oh! I love him.”

“Yeah.” Joe began to dial. “He has to check your chip.”

“I don’t have a chip.”

“Oh brother.”

“Please don’t call Danny, Joe. I am not Dean. If I were where are my scars?”

Joe peered closer. “Probably invented something.”

“Never had them. Look at my hands. Are they worn?”

“Ha! No. But Dean never did a hard day’s work. So …”

“Joe. I am not Dean. I am from the future.”

Joe shut the phone with a disbelieving voice. “I’ll hear you out. Go on.”

“I have proof.”

“This I gotta see.”

Roy slid the box across the desk.

 

Robbie looked at the small screen on the box. They showed images, pictures of New York City, slum like, half destroyed. People destitute. “I know there is a certain time point,” Robbie said. “When my father can announce he is alive.”

“There is.”

“You know that time point?”

“I believe I do. I also believe that if we continue on the current path, with everyone assuming Joe has died, that we won’t see that future in your hands.”

“Is this the proof? My father said you have proof of the point in time. That if need be you’ll bring it forward.”

“No. I have a different disk for that. See, imagine if your histories John Kennedy wasn’t president. Imagine he was killed before the Cuban missile crisis. Imagine the man who was president took a different approach and the world was wiped out by nuclear weapons. If we knew John Kennedy would make a decision that would divert the disaster, and you as a time traveler went back and stopped his death, stopping the war, what proof would you secure to show him, during the Bay of Pigs controversy, that he indeed was on the right track.”

“Wow, that’s a long question. JFK was under a lot of scrutiny during the Bay of Pigs. So, I would want to show him the future if he wasn’t president, and proof that despite what people were saying, his firm stance was the right move.”

“Exactly.”

Robbie shrugged. “If I was from the future I would have something on my possession that they didn’t have in the 60’s, and something that showed what the other president did.”

“Exactly. I have that proof.”

“So obviously, Frank has to make a decision that’s unpopular and one my dad wouldn’t make. And, when he does, you’ll pull forward the proof that if he hadn’t made that decision the world would turn to shit again.”

“Yes.”

“Can I see it?” Robbie asked.

“No. I don’t want you to influence. If you know what is to occur, you may influence.”

“But we have the ALS3, so that should help.”

“It was up in running in time before.”

Robbie looked at him curious. “The ALS3 isn’t the key.”

“No. Leadership is.”

“What did you tell my father?”

“I told him a Great War was coming and to think tough on his decisions, because if he didn’t, those pictures would eventually occur.”

“And he said what?”

“I explained think tough. He acknowledged. Agreed to stay silent. And would make tough choices. I went back to the future. And nothing changed.”

“What my father thought was tough, wasn’t tough enough?” Robbie asked.

“No.”

“Then you decided he had to die or at least look like he had to die.”

“Yes. But things got screwed up,” Roy said. “I then went to November of this year. In the midst of everything. Got future Joe. Told him he was warned by me, and it was future Joe who agreed that he didn’t have it in him to make the decision needed. So, I grabbed him and took him back to March. I figured if Future Joe looked as bad as he did, present Joe would see the importance of what we had to do. Present Joe saw himself, and was man enough to realize that perhaps, humanely, he didn’t have it in him to make the right decision.”

“Does my present father know what that decision is?”

“No. He agreed to disappear. We all agreed that Frank would be the best.”

“So,” Robbie said. “You guys set an explosion, put my dad in an invisa suit, and killed future Joe with the plan my dad stays hidden until that one event and decision.”

“That’s correct.”

“Got it.” Robbie nodded. “Easy enough.”

“I thought so, too. But it went awry.”

Robbie peered up. “How?”

“Jason.”

“Jason?”

“Ok, maybe not all Jason. But he really screwed some of it up. Him and not thinking things through,” Roy explained. “See when I secured the future Joe, I also secured, in a sense, the death of Joe. Jason sent a message to himself. Warning of Joe’s murder. History showed it was a clear concise message.”

“But that message came through jumbled.”

“Ah,” Roy lifted a finger. “I have theory on that. I’ll get to it. But first. This one. As near as I could figure, he called in you and Frank. That was it. I had everything wired for sound so I could monitor what was happening.”

“What happened?”

“One word. Frank. What does Frank never fail to do? What was the one thing all of you were angry about?”

“Saving the day.”

“Exactly.” Roy said. “Everything was ready. Joe was in his office. It was March 21st.”

“The dayafterFrank’s wedding?”

“Yes.”

“But he died before …”

“Wait. Allow me to finish. Your father knew he was going to be gone a while, and wanted to really send out some nice emails to everyone he loved. Future Joe wanted to as well, so they both decided they would both write emails.”

Robbie smiled.

“What?”

“The emails. Some were simple. Some were deep.”

“Past Joe, future Joe. Anyhow, I was standing outside the office with Future Joe. He was in an invisible suit. We were laughing because Joe was getting bombarded with phone calls and was getting frustrated. I had set the timer, there wasn’t much time. And we had no idea whatsoever, Jason sent that message.”

 

“Ok,” Joe spoke, his words being picked up by Roy. “Send him in.”

Future Joe in the suit made his way into the office.

Roy waited. It was a matter of time. He listened to the exchange of words between the Joes. And the door opened. Present Day Joe, wearing the suit, emerged and walked to Roy.

“All set. Fifteen minutes.”

They stayed and waited to make sure there were no problems. But at four minutes and counting, Future Joe got a phone call.

“Robbie, what … in my office. Why?”

 

Robbie paused Roy’s story. “I made a call to try to find my dad.”

Roy nodded, then continued.

 

“Why is Robbie calling, why do you sound so upset?” Roy asked.

“I don’t know … Jesus Christ.”

“What?”

“Frank.”

From over the hill, full speed, like only he could run, Frank raced toward the office.

“Goddamn it he’s going in there.” Joe rushed to remove the suit.

“Frank!” Roy called out.

Frank was focused, he ran into the office.

“Son of a bitch.” Stripped out of the suit, Joe ran with everything he had to the office.


Page 6

“Dad, just making sure you’re all right,” Frank said out of breath,

“Frank.” Future Joe stood. “Get out of here.”

“Are you all right?” Frank asked.

One minute.

“Frank!” Future Joe blasted. “Get out.”

The door blasted open and Present Joe raced in. “Frank, get out. Get out now.” He reached for him.

Frank looked at Both Joe’s. “What’s going on?”

Boom.

 

Robbie blinked slowly. “Hence Fort knowing about Frank dying.”

“Yes. Yes. When I came back through to fix it, he followed me to Beginnings.”

“Wow, how fucked up did things get over that one?”

“Bad.” Roy whistled. “See, Hal became President. Hal is much like your father, so much so they made the exact same decision. Of course many leaders said they would have. What made it worse was, when I returned, I had no lab, nothing. Only the HG Wells. Thank goodness I secured the proof ahead of time.”

“What happened to you?”

“My mistake. See, my fingerprints were found on the explosive. So, Dean was pegged as the murderer. Without Frank to be his biggest ally, he was found guilty and someone murdered him. They believe it was Johnny Slagel.”

Robbie exhaled. “So you had so much to fix.”

“Oh, yes. I then went back in time. I knew of Dean’s chip. I knew they could track him, so I had to do something silly to make them want to track Dean. I could handle my fingerprint situation by having Joe build the bomb. But I couldn’t fix if someone saw me.”

“So you began the mutilator attacks.”

“Yes, and it worked. They started tracking Dean. I had to get him and Henry in one night to pull that off. It was tough.”

“Ok.” Robbie held up his hand. “If my Dad, or both died in that explosion, how did you fix it?”

“Only one way. I had to go back to the day I brought Future Joe back with me. See, when I originally went back with Future Joe it was the 19th. History never told me about Frank’s wedding, so Future Joe and myself had to wait out in the trailer for two days. I distinctly remember a meeting the three of us had at the trailer.”

“Wait. Wait.” Robbie stopped him. “Jason’s message?”

“Ah, yes. The trip that got me stuck. Had I not made that trip, I would have been able to return. See. I went to the day Jason got the message. I couldn’t find when or where he sent himself that message to stop him, so the only thing I could do was jam it in present day.”

“How did you find out when he sent it?”

“Joe told me on the 19th.”

“So you went back to the 19th, left the 19th, went to the day he sent that message, then returned to the 19th.”

“And don’t forget my other self was there and had to use his HG Wells to leave and go back to the future. Too many trips in one time frame. It jammed.”

“Ok, so you got rid of the other ‘you’.”

“Yes.” Roy nodded. “And then hard decision had to be made.”

“Changing the date.”

“Yes. But I still didn’t know how that would affect Jason’s message to himself. I jammed it. So the moment we changed our plan, it could change his message. And the fact that I jammed it changed everything. Because at that point Jason brought in help. Once they deciphered that Joe was going to die they put a guard on him.”

“Making things more difficult.”

“So, hating to do so, just in case the message came though as a March 21stdeath, we moved it up to Frank’s wedding day. That night at rehearsal Joe told Andrea to make sure that the wedding took place. He knew if Frank got married it would help everyone's mind.”

“But the moment you set the explosive time …”

“We didn’t.”

Robbie looked at him curiously. “Then how.”

“Joe built it. Set a timer, yes. But we knew your phone call was the indication that the message was solved and Frank was on his way.”

“The radio.”

“After I removed Darrell safely from the room, present Joe in the suit and myself stood outside the door. When we saw Frank, we radioed Joe and walked away. Joe pressed the button ensuring Frank wouldn’t run in.”

“Which explains how Jenny’s field trip caught you on video calmly walking away.”

“Exactly.”

“Wow.” Robbie sat back. “That told a lot.”

“Now, hopefully, Frank will make the right decision. And the future will be bright.”

“I can tell you this, Roy.” Robbie hands folded leaned in toward him. “Your HG Wells wasn’t jammed. I accidentally got it restarted when I found it. A while back, Hal, Frank, and myself went to the future and it was bleak. I repeated that trip. Everything is on track. We may have a lot to go through, still, and things may change. So far, so good, things are bright.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Roy closed his eyes. “That is such a relief. Such a burden lifted. I want to dance a jig.”

“Go ahead. Yeah, all that trouble,” Robbie said. “Now you know it may have worked for the future.”

“Oh no. I’m not elated about that. I’m glad the future appears bright. But, like you said, things could still change.” Roy smiled. “I’m happy my machine works.”

*****

Her legs said it all... Mangled from the knees down. Her feet, or rather what was left of them, were mere pointed stumps. The bite marks, chew marks were more than obvious. Her hair, a huge chunk of it, led Frank to her discovery. Most of her hair was still intact except for the portion on the left side of her face. Her right arm was twisted and broken, three fingers were gone from her left hand. Her face sported scratches and her wide eyed look gave her an appearance that she was oblivious to what had occurred. She never saw it coming.

Finding her body was a shock to Frank. He didn’t recognize her at first, she was new. He shook his head when he bent down to her. “Who did this to you?” He asked out loud. Still holding the clump of hair in his fingers, he gently lifted her body. When he did. When he stared at the destruction of her feminine form, answers started to come to him. What happened, who did it, and how.

It made sense.

So close to home.

Ellen’s voice, in her approach from behind, snapped him from his stare of the missing fingers. “What happened to Alex’s new Barbie Doll?”

“I don’t know. It’s fucked up.” Frank lifted the doll. “You didn’t see this doll like this before?”

“No. Where did you find her?”

“Behind the couch. Well, I saw her hair on the edge and then I saw her legs.”

“What’s left of them?” Ellen took the doll. “Sad. Alex is going to be upset.”

“I know.”

“I mean, she was just playing with her in the dining room.”

Frank shrieked out in revelation. “Uh!”

“What?”

“I got it.”

“What?”

“Man, I can be slow.”

Ellen snickered. “What did you get?”

“Robbie…” Frank started to laugh. “He said Dining womb.”

“Womb? Like Alex’s says her ‘r’.”

“No, dining womb. Get it. Not dining room. Dining womb.”

“I’m lost.”

“No, it was lost and now it’s almost found.”

“Frank?” Ellen questioned. “What are you talking about?”

“I lost something that may have done this. It means it may be close.”

Ellen laughed. “Frank, what did you lose? A lawn mower? Miniature Killer Baby …” She gasped out. “No.”

“No, what?”

“You lost it.”

“What?”

“The Killer Fetus.”

“Thankfully it only fucking kills dolls.”

Ellen screamed.

“What?”

“Please don’t tell me you lost it in the house.”

“Actually in the... Dining...” Frank snickered. “Womb.”

Ellen smacked him. “That’s not funny.”

“Yes it is.”

“Frank, look at this doll.”

“Exactly. Obviously it only eats plastic.”

“For now.”

“El, seriously, with all the miniature people we have, if it was still here, don’t you think it would have gnawed on one of them.” Frank raised his eyebrows.

“You’re an ass. We have to put out a community alert.”

“No, we do not.”

“Yes, we do.”

“El, we’ll get a fucking panic if we do. You know the people of Beginnings. One Killer Fetus and they see this thing, they’ll say alien invasion.”

“That’s you, Frank. You start most of the rumors.”

“I do not. You lie.”

Ellen folded her arms and stared at him.

“Ok, sometimes I do. But this … Harry, he’s fine. We just need to find him. Maybe he went back to the Killer Baby region.”

“If he did. We’ll never know,” Ellen said. “They all look alike.”

“Not him. He looks different.”

“You can tell them apart?”

“I can when they have a collar on.”

After staring for a moment, Ellen inhaled. “Ok, let’s check the house first, anyhow.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’ll start with the bedroom, you start here.” Ellen instructed, and then headed immediately down the hall. She shook her head at Frank’s calling of ‘Here Harry’, and knocked on the door of the first room. “Alex?” she called out as she opened the door. “You ok?”

Alex quickly turned around from her seat on the floor. “Yes, mommy, fine. Playing with my dolls.”

“Ok. Just checking.” Ellen smiled at her daughter; pulled the door closed, told Frank that the room was clean and moved to the next.

 

Alex stared at the closed door and listened to the sound of her mother’s footsteps. She grabbed her Brunette Barbie and moved it closer, then on her hands and knees reached under her bed. “Come on.” She called in a soft voice. “It’s ok.”

When pulled back her arm and smiled. “You weren’t scared were you?” She stared at the creature in her hand, the Killer Fetus called Harry. She had on him a green doll evening dress and a wide hat. “You hat is falling off.”

His little jaw nipped out to her. She giggled, and flicked him. He twitched his head. Bracing him between her bony knees, Alex grabbed the tape and secured the hat on his head. “Better, “she said. “So pretty.” She gave him a pat and he purred. Another snicker of enjoyment and Alex lifted her Barbie. “Now where were we?”

Harry opened his mouth.

“No biting.” Alex hit playfully hit him with the Barbie doll, then proceeded, holding both dolls, to engage them in rival Barbie doll conversation.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Alexandra’s little hand clasped tightly to Ellen’s while her book bag, nearly as wide as she was, slapped against her thigh.

She paused in the street watching the truck pull up.

“Let’s go,” Ellen told her.

“Yes,” Billy added from behind. “Let’s rush to get this astounding education.”

“Billy.” Ellen scolded. “Alex, come on honey.”

“I’m watching Uncle Henry. He went on a pick up run again this morning.”

“How do you know?” Ellen asked.

“He was arguing with Frank before you got up. He said he didn’t want to go. He gave me this book bag.”

“And it’s very nice.”

“Please do not lie to the child,” Billy added.

Again, Ellen looked back at Billy.

“It’s show and tell today Mommy,” Alex said.

Ellen faced Billy. “Did you bring something to show and tell?”

“Please. Anything I have is way over the head of the students.”

Ellen rolled her eyes, and then smiled at Alex as they approached the steps to the school. “And you brought something right?”

“Yep. I brought my new toy.”

Ellen cringed. Visually, in her mind, all she could see was the twisted, broken wreckage of that Barbie. “Alex, sweetie, it might scare the kids.”

“No, Mommy, they’ll love my toy.”

“Ok.” Ellen crouched down beside her. “If it doesn’t go over very well, don’t be upset.”

Alex shook her head. “I won’t. Promise.”

“Good.” Ellen kissed her, stood, and then bent down to Billy. “You two have a great day.” She backed up, smiled once more and turned.

Billy stood on the stairs with his sister. He gave an ‘up’ motion of his chin. “So what the heck did you bring? That broken Barbie doll?”

“No.”

“But you said your new toy”

“Yes. Wanna see.”

“Sure.” Billy shrugged.

Alex lifted the flap on her book bag. Billy peeked inside. He nodded nonchalantly and spoke in nearly the same manner. “Hmm. That may be a good one. Make sure you give Miss Jenny a good look.”

“Ok, I will.”

“And I can’t wait to see her face.” Billy reached for the door. “This is gonna be a good day after all.”

*****

From the moment he had faked his death, Joe lived a different life. No longer was he ‘Joe’ the man everyone went to. He was Joe, deceased, in hiding. Living in that extra trailer wasn’t bad. Nor was walking around in the invisa suit. Joe actually enjoyed that. He could walk around Beginnings, eavesdrop when a door was open long enough, and be a part. He just couldn’t talk. He even figured a way to get a latte.

Jenny Matoose went into the bakery every day at lunch time, always, always she held the door open to holler across the street, that was when Joe slipped in. Jenny also ordered her latte, and then peeked at the baked good, distracting Gemma, that was how Joe stole the latte.

Typical mentality of Beginnings, they never questioning anything unusual.

Of course that wasn’t the complete case.

Joe was visiting History quite often until Danny changed the password.

Locked out.

He supposed he’d have that.

But now things were different. Even though pretty much everyone believed he was dead, there were those who knew otherwise.

Now Joe had company other than the clone.

Not that the clone was bad company, he became enjoyable when Joe found out how gullible he was.

But that only lasted so long then Joe got bored.

The nights were the loneliest.

He’d wander town in the suit, watching everyone at the Social Hall, going in and absorbing the atmosphere.

Once and a while he’d find fun out of switching up the karaoke line up. But again, you could only have so much fun alone.

Now he had Jason.

He stayed at Jason’s place, it was safe, they drank all night like old times, and Joe didn’t have a single gripe about the hangover.

He actually welcomed it.

Now he was about to welcome something else.

A time trip.

Not that he needed any more convincing, but the drunken discussion about how time trips would pass time for Joe. He for an adventure.

Jason told him to think about where he wanted to go and when.

Joe just had to figure out the details.

So many to choose from, he didn’t know where to start. One thing was for sure, Joe was going to take a trip back in time to when life wasn’t necessarily simpler, but it was at its best. Back to when his boys were young.

*****

Roy was buzzing about the lab, he not only had his work, but he had that special request work to do for Frank in regards to the secret child.

But that posed a problem.

In the future, they really never dealt with things called tumors. Roy had heard of them, but they weren’t medical problems. Perhaps someone had cured them somewhere along the line, but the truth was there were other things. Other things were more life threatening.

So Roy had to research tumors extensively. He had the knowledge, but like the knowledge of what was a postage stamp, Roy tucked it away as something he would never need.

“Morning, Dean.” Andrea said brightly.

“Oh, good morning Sunshine.”

She smiled and giggled. “Do you have Hap’s sugar results done?”

“No, I do not. I am sorry. Almost.”

“Really? You are usually so proficient.” Andrea sifted through the stack of folders.

“I know. I was working on something for Frank. I will get to it now. This was just bothersome.”

“Can I help you?”

“No. He asked it to be a secret.”

“Hmm.” Andrea folded her arms. “Really, Dean, I know your history with Frank. There should be no secrets in this lab. They have gotten you in trouble before as you know.”

“I didn’t know that. I will keep that in mind.”

“Is it a health problem?”

“Yes. I cannot tell you anymore. Because Frank doesn’t want anyone to know he has … he has …”

“He has what, Dean?” Andrea stepped forward.

“I can’t.”

“Dean?”

“I cannot.”

“Dean, you found Jesus. Jesus would be happy.”

“Fine. I cannot tell you because Frank is keeping it a secret that he has a child in Beginnings. No one is to know.”

Andrea gasped. “He has a child. One of his and Ellen’s?”

“No, Ellen is not the mother. She doesn’t even know.”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Yes.”

Melissa called from the door, “Dean. I need you in exam room two.”

“Yes. Be right there.” Roy grabbed a lab jacket. “I will speak to you later.”

“Oh, you better believe it.”

After Roy left, Andrea stood by the counter. Her fingers tapping on the counter as she spoke out loud. “Frank has an illegitimate child.” She gasped out. “Bastard.”

*****

“Oh, yeah,” Frank grinned holding the ventriloquist dummy. “This is fuckin’ cool.” Like a kid at Christmas, Frank basked in the dummy. Its hair was lifelike, face sculptured. But the dummy looked small in his large arms.

Henry didn’t look amused. In fact, he pouted. “I can’t believe I wasted an entire morning going into a warehouse that was supposed to have explosives and it ended up being a flea market storage.”

“Yeah, but the stuff is cool. We can put it in the warehouse and the Bowman businesses can have a field day.”

“Swell.”

“Is he great or what?”

“Swell.”

Frank positioned the dummy on his arm. “Look his eyes and mouth work.”

“Great,” Henry said less than enthused.

“I’ll call him Bob.” Frank changed his voice some. “Hey, Henry, how are you?”

“Frank …”

“My name is Bob.” Frank laughed. “Whoa, I’m good at this.”

“I can see your lips move Frank.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes, I can.”

“Look again,” Once more, Frank maneuvered the dummy. His mouth was twisted and distorted as he tried to keep it still while talking. “Hi Henry.”

“Moving.”

“Fuck.”

“Not moving, that word slips out of you.”

“Maybe I should have him swear more.”

“That works.”

“Look here comes Jenny.” Frank made ‘Bob’s’ head turn to him, and he laughed. “Look at Bob, Henry he’s looking for Jenny.”

Bob peered around. “Oh, man, Jenny sucks.”

Frank laughed.

“Oh my God,” Henry closed his eyes briefly. “But you do kind of have a knack for moving him.”

“It’s realistic huh?”

Henry tilted his head. “You do it good. You just need to work on the mouth thing.”

“Here comes Jenny. Man, she looks pissed.”

“Don’t make Bob talk to her, then Frank, she’ll get even madder.”

“Frank,” Jenny said in a scolding tone, arms folded.

Bob peeked down from Frank’s arms and straight into Jenny’s eyes.

Jenny looked at the dummy. “Why is that thing in my face?”

“Thing?” Bob retorted. “Thing. She called me a thing Frank.”

“I heard.”

“Frank.” Jenny huffed out. “I can …”

“What do you need toots?” Bob asked. “Gotta go through me to get to the big guy.”

“Frank, I can see your lips move, you’re not fooling me.” Jenny raised her eyebrows.

Frank turned his head into his shoulder hiding his mouth. “No you can’t.”

“Frank!”

At first he answered as Bob, ‘What!” then Frank cleared his throat. “Yes.”

Jenny opened her mouth to speak. “Can you please put that away? I need to speak to you.”

“He’s my friend, he stays. He may be my new advisor.”

“I find it annoying, especially now.”

Henry interjected. “You know, Jenny, you’re not being very nice.”

“Oh, and this dummy doesn’t annoy you?” she asked.

“Since he irks you, he doesn’t annoy me anymore. Thanks, Bob.”

“You’re welcome,” Bob said.

Jenny growled. “Fine. Be childish. Frank, at the hospital they said they are waiting on you to speak to Jimmy before they release him. Can you go do that?”

“On my way now.”

“And can you be a leader and have a town meeting?”

“Why?”

“The brain flu. We need an antidote and an update.”

“Talk to Roy.”

“Who?” Jenny questioned.

“Who's Roy?” Henry followed up.

“Roy?” Frank asked. “What are you talking about?”

Jenny said, “You told me to talk to Roy.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“You did, Frank.” Henry added.

“I did?” Frank looked at Bob. “Did I say Roy?”

“No, I did,” Bob replied.

“Fuckin Bob.” Frank shook his head. “Sorry.”

With a smug look, Jenny tightened her arms go her body. “You of all people have no right to joke around today since the jig is up for you buster.” She poked him in the chest.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You know and when El finds out and knows then with Ellen’s support I’m moving for your impeachment.”

“For what? I didn’t start the brain flu.”

“Sometimes I wonder.” Jenny spun hard and walked briskly toward the school.

“She wants to impeach me over the brain flu?”

“Don’t worry about it, Frank,” Henry said. “She’s just upset about something.”

“To blame me for a virus.”

“Maybe it’s something else.”

“Man, and people call me retarded.” He looked at Bob. “Ready to go, Bob?”

“Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

“See ya Henry.” Frank gave a nod and walked off with the dummy.

“They sometimes have reason to call you that Frank.” Henry mumbled, then after watching Frank talk with the dummy all the way to the clinic, he went back to the truck.

*****

So dramatic, Andrea closed her eyes as she stood with Melissa in the lab. “Sweet Jesus, was Jenny upset or what?”

“I think she was mad because Ellen is her best friend.”

“And Richie, he walked in at the right time.” Andrea said. “Was it me or did he seem to enjoy hearing it.”

“Shocked, like us all. I’m glad he’s the one breaking the news to Ellen.”

“How many children did we have at the clinic yesterday?” Andrea asked.

“Tons, it was immunization day.”

“So any of them could be Frank’s illegitimate child.” Andrea shook her head. “Why hide it? And who is the mother? Which woman around here would sleep with Frank behind Ellen’s back?”


Page 7

“I think the question should be which woman would beside Ellen would sleep with Frank.”

So motherly, Andrea reached out. “He’s still my son.”

“Sorry.”

“We just need to find out and clear the air. We cannot have this deception in Beginnings. Sweet Jesus if Joe were alive, he’d deal with Frank.”

“What?” Frank’s voice carried through the lab door.

Andrea shook her head.

Melissa gasped out, folded arms and walked right out of the lab by Frank.

“Ok,” Frank sung. “Hey, Andrea, just letting you know, I’m going to talk to Jimmy, and then you can release him. Oh!” He snuck Bob in the doorway. “Check out my new friend.”

“Hi, Andrea!” Bob said.

Andrea sobbed out a single sob. “Frank, I love you but right now ….” She walked to the door; paused and peeped out in a voice that squeaked high pitched and fast. “You son of a bitch.” Andrea stormed off.

Frank looked at Bob. “Man, I have you ten minutes and already you’re getting me in trouble.” After a shake of his head in confusion, Frank walked down the hall.

*****

A simple request for allergy medicine turned out to be a trip on an informational highway Richie wasn’t expecting. Admittedly, when he walked into the lab and heard the ‘Frank has a secret illegitimate child’ news, he didn’t believe it. Then it dawned on him, he was hearing it from two medical professionals who seemed devastated by the news.

He laughed about it. A short chuckle then stopped when Andrea gave him that scolding look.

“Sweet Jesus,” she said to him. “This is your sister’s emotional downfall.”

Emotional downfall? Come on. Ellen the queen of cheat wouldn’t have an emotional downfall over discovering Frank had a child with someone else. Richie pitied the person who carried that child. Then he pitied Frank.

Armed with info, Richie headed to Containment. After all, it was his duty as her only surviving sibling to break the news to her.

He buzzed himself in, it was still quiet. The residents were eating breakfast and Ellen more than likely was reviewing Jess’ notes from the night shift.

After saying hello in the dining area, Richie strutted to the office.

But something happened when he stepped to the door. Ellen was staring at her wedding picture and at that instant, Richie couldn’t do it.

He turned.

“Something wrong?” Ellen asked.

“Um, no. I just realized I wasn’t working,” Richie said.

“You are. Just not until this afternoon.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m gonna go back home and hang out.”

“Don’t be late,” she instructed. “Today is Joe Day, where the residents do their tribute to Joe. You won’t want to miss it.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Richie you ok?”

“Yeah, fine, see you in a bit.”

Ellen waved and Richie left.

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t destroy her like that, but she had to know, so he was off to find the perfect person.

 

Alexandra wouldn’t stop fussing. She kept dipping her arm down into her book bag throughout class.

“Alex, leave your bag alone,” Jenny told her.

“I’m just playing with my show and tell.”

“It’s not show and tell yet honey, you have to wait. Now you don’t want me to make you put the book bag away, do you?”

“No.” Alexandra shook her head.

“Good, now back to the math problems. They need all your attention, they’re pretty difficult today.” She shifted her eyes to Billy, expecting some sort of sarcastic remark or expression. But she didn’t get it. Billy kept looking at Alexandra’s bag.

As Jenny returned to her reading, she heard the back door of the school open. She peered up and saw Richie standing there. He waved her to come back.

Jenny did, she excused herself from the main room of the class and went back to see Richie. “What’s wrong?”

“No emergency,” Richie told her. “I just … I just need you to take care of something as soon as you can.”

“What’s that?”

“I know you heard about Frank and his little secret.”

Jenny nodded.

“Ellen doesn’t know yet. I don’t think.”

With a gasp, she covered her mouth. “Oh my.”

“I know.”

“She can’t hear about it on the street. You know how things go in this town.”

“Absolutely. Where is she now?”

“Containment.”

“Can you watch my class?” Jenny asked. “They’re doing math problems.”

“Without a doubt. Thanks, Jenny.”

“No problem.” Jenny opened the door.

“Oh, and Jenny, be gentle.”

“Tactful is more like it. You know it.” After a wink, Jenny with inhale of courage, embarked on her mission.

*****

“Hi ya’ Jim.” Bob poked his head, with some help from Frank of course, into Jimmy’s room.

Jimmy laughed.

Frank stepped in.

“How cool is that, Frank?”

“He is, isn’t he?” Frank had Bob look around. “I call him Bob.”

“Where did you get him?”

“Henry did a run this morning, he was on the truck.”

“Too awesome.”

“How you feeling Jim?” Asked Bob.

Jimmy laughed again. “You’re good with that.”

“Henry said my lips move.”

“Well, they do, but sometimes that doesn’t matter.”

“Cause I can go like this.” Frank turned his mouth into his shoulder and spoke.

“Um, no.” Jimmy shook his head. “You’re still learning, keep trying.”

“I will.”

“So are you here to talk to me so I can get out?”

“Yes.” Frank sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m glad you’re all better.”

“Yeah, me too. Those antibiotics and anti-virals worked wonders. Jenny said they’re talking epidemic?”

“No, it’s a virus.” Frank replied, seriously.

“I mean … I mean … ok, thanks for clearing that up. I hear a lot of men got it or are worried.”

“Dean is handling that. It’ll be over soon.”

Jimmy nodded. “Good. Also good thing Bob can’t get it huh?”

Frank fluttered his lips. “Tell me about it, he’s hard enough to learn now. Give him a brain virus. I’m done.”

“Yeah.” Jimmy smiled. “Well, now that you gave the ok, I want to get back to work. I’m behind.”

“Behind what?”

“Where I want to be.”

“Where do you want to be?”

Jimmy huffed out. “Done with the ALS3.”

“You are.”

“I am.”

“Yeah. That’s why I wanted to talk to you. When they said you went into the hospital, I went down to put everything on pause and bam, everything was up and working. You fixed it.”

“Fixed it.”

“Figured it out. Good job.” Frank swatted him on the leg.

“I didn’t do it Frank.”

“Yeah, you did.”

“No, I didn’t.” Jimmy shook his head. “If I did I would know.”

“No you wouldn’t.”

“Why?”

“You had the brain virus. I thought someone else did it, too. No one owned up. So I went into the lock history and you were the last one in the room. You solved the ALS3.”

“Oh my God, and I missed the glory of it.”

“I’m sure you jumped up and down, but just don’t remember because of the virus.”

“Damn.” Jimmy hit his fist against the bed. He stood up at the same time as Frank.

“I want to fill you in more, but you might as well wait until my meeting today. It’s in two hours.”

“Ok. I’ll be there. I do want to go check out the ALS3. See how it works.”

“You already know how it works,” Frank said. “You fixed it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t remember.” Jimmy tucked in his shirt and headed toward the door.

“It’ll come back to you.”

“I hope the excitement comes back to me.”

“It will.”

“I must have had it bad,” Jimmy said.

“Uh, yeah,” Frank replied. “They’re calling you patient zero.”

“Oh my God, they think I started it.”

Frank shrugged.

“How?” Jimmy wondered. “How could I have started the virus?”

“Uh, Jimmy, that’s an easy one.”

“How so?”

“Hello, you were at that computer all the time.”

“Ok.” Jimmy waited and nodded. “So.”

“So you got it from there.”

“The computer?” Jimmy asked.

“Yeah.”

“How?”

“Uh, computer virus? Those things are tricky and contagious. I mean, think about it. How many people did you hear about in the old world having a computer virus...?”

“Frank you can’t get a … a …” Jimmy forced a smile. “Wow, I never thought of that.”

Frank pointed to his own temple. “Got to use the brain when it doesn’t have a virus.”

“You’re right. You’re the man, Frank.”

Frank smiled. “I am.”

*****

“And here we have it set up like a theater,” Ellen explained to Jenny in the skills room. “You got your invite, right?”

“Yes, I’ll be here. With a box of tissue.”

“I hope we bring more laughs then tears. Ten of the residents are really working hard to pay tribute to Joe.”

Jenny nodded sadly. “Ellen, the reason I’m here, isn’t because of the Joe Day.”

“Really? Then why the visit.”

“Ellen,” Jenny sighed out and grasped on to her shoulders. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

*****

Elliott Ryder stared into the front window of Unique Boutique. They always had such nice things.

He was looking for the perfect gift. Something to cheer up Ellen on such a bad day.

His attention was caught when the door dinged, and Ben from Fabrics stepped outside. “Sgt. Ryder, can I assist you with something?”

“I was window shopping.”

“Looking for anything in particular?”

“Actually, a gift for a friend. She is having a bad day.”

“This friend wouldn’t be Ellen, would it?”

“As a matter of fact. Yes.”

“Figures, that poor dear. That beast of a man really messed things up. So Bill Clinton like isn’t he?”

“How … how did you find out?”

“Word travels fast. Come in.” Ben held open the door.

Elliott, hesitant, followed.

“As you know, Ellen comes in here regularly. She’s extended her credit to the max, but I can tell you items she has been wanting and looking at.”

“That would be nice,” Elliott said.

“And, for reference.” Ben winked. “I just heard there will be an open house warehouse of goodies for us. Henry found a treasure trove.”

“That’s nice to know.”

“Here.” Ben lifted a small music box. “This is what she wants. She stares at this daily.”

“Are you sure?”

“Am I sure she stares or sure she wants it.”

“Sure she wants it?”

“Positive. She told me, that should Captain Slagel come in I am to hint that she wants this.”

Elliott chuckled. “It’s very unique.” He held the small box.

“My dear, it is the Unique Boutique. Shall I wrap it for you?”

“Please.”

“Let me take it in the back.”

While Ben from Fabrics disappeared, Elliott took in the shop. Checking out all the handmade items that were also available. They had more purses. Elliott knew Ellen was hinting for a new purse.

Ding.

He turned to see Hal walk in.

“Captain.”

“Purse shopping Elliott. The old handbag not big enough.”

“Funny. No, Captain, I came to get Ellen a gift.”

“Good God, Elliott, don’t spoil her.”

“It’s not spoiling, it’s cheering her up.”

“Ah, yes, I see.” Hal nodded. “For what?”

“I’m sure you heard the news out of Beginnings?”

“Which news?”

“The unbelievable news.”

Hal sighed out. “Elliott, it’s Beginnings, everything that comes from there is unbelievable. Which would this be, my father’s floating head?”

“No. Frank’s bastard child.”

Ben’s effeminate, ‘Bastard’ rang out.

Both Hal and Elliott turned to the counter.

“Sorry,” Ben placed his hand to his chest. “I’m just upset about all this.” He laid the wrapped gift on the counter. “I’ll charge this to your account, Sgt. Ryder.”

“Thank you.”

Hal shifted his eyes to the gift then to Ben. “Let me assure both of you men, that I am certain this Frank's bastard child rumor is just that. A rumor.”

“How can you be so sure?” Elliott asked.


Page 8

“Because Elliott, it’s my brother. I know my brother. I’m positive he said something stupid and it was all misconstrued.”

“But the women are certain …”

“The women are wrong. The man is not sexually driven. My God, he’s only been with two women in his entire life. This is nonsense. You’ll see.”

Ben raised his hand. “You still want that gift right?”

Elliot looked down to the present. “Very much so, thank you.” He opened the door for him and Hal.

Hal stepped out and placed on his bandana. “Well, now that you are armed with gifts, shall we go to Beginnings?”

“Yes, I am ready. I have some thoughts of my own to share at the meeting.”

“So you slept on it?” Hal said sarcastically, walking to the truck.

“You can say that.”

“Well, you’re ideas may be a little too late. My ideas may be a little too late.”

Pausing before opening the door, Elliott looked at Hal. “What do you mean?”

“I figured out his little sleep on it.”

Elliott tilted his head in question.

“My brother was stalling to talk to this new advisor.”

Shocked, Elliott cocked back. “A new advisor? That sounds odd. He told you this.”

“Not that he was stalling. But he said his new advisor has some things to say at the meeting.”

“Where is he from?” Elliott asked, getting in the truck.

“I don’t know.” Hal said after he entered and got situated behind the wheel. “Probably Jordan, maybe even Doyle camp. But I’m a little insulted that he’d go to someone new for advice.”

“Understandable.”

“Yes, I cannot wait to meet this man who has so much influence on my brother.” Hal started the truck. “This man my brother only calls Bob.”

*****

The black magic marker did the trick, and it was indelible ink, too, so it wouldn’t go away. Frank was impressed at how good Bob looked in a goatee. He was enjoying the new office and the much bigger desk.

“Oh, yeah, we look alike.” Frank lifted the dummy, positioned it, warmed up the head and eyes, laughed at his own wit, and then spoke. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

“My name is Frank.”

“My name is Bob.”

Frank chuckled. “Fuck saying the letter ‘B is hard. Ok, I can do this lip not moving thing. In his own voice, “My name is Frank.”

“I aim is Ob.”

“What?”

“Ob.”

“Not Ob, Bob.”

“Frank.”

“No, my name is Frank. Of course Frank is easier to say.”

“Yeah en ob.”

“Bob. Fuck. I’ll get it. You want a cigarette.”

“No I don’t smoke.”

The door to the office blasted open and Ellen raged in.

Frank let out an ‘uh!’ then so do did Bob.

“You son of a bitch!” Ellen pointed at him and slammed the door.

“What?’

“Oh, look at you. You disgust me. You’ll do anything to have your hand up someone’s shirt.”

“Well, yeah, I mean …” Frank stood. “El, what the fuck did I do?”

“You would ask.”

“I did.”

“Fuck you Frank.”

Bob’s head turned to Frank. “Wow, she’s mad at you.”

“Tell me about it.”

Bob said, “Your lips are moving.”

“I know. But it’s hard to sound good like you when I don’t move my lips.”

“Frank!” Ellen screamed. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Fuckin Bob has been getting me in trouble all day.”

“Sure. Sure. Blame Bob. Was it Bob’s penis that started the trouble?”

“I don’t know.” Frank looked at Bob. “Has your penis been starting trouble?”

“I wouldn’t say trouble, I’d say …”

Whack. Ellen smacked Bob.

“Hey! You hit Bob.” Frank shouted.

“Hey!” so did Bob.

“Wow, I could do that word without moving my lips.”

Ellen growled. “Can you please pay attention to me? Maybe that’s why you were in trouble. Maybe if you paid less attention to everyone else …”

“El, what are you talking about. Why are you so pissed?”

“You wanna know?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll tell you.”

“Good. Cause me and Bob are tired of being yelled at and not knowing why.”

“Fine!” Ellen blasted. “You started it. You made this big deal yesterday, Frank. A huge deal, and now it’s all over town.”

“What is?”

“Hiding the child.”

Frank stared. After a moment he asked. “What do you mean?”

“Sneak into the clinic. Hide the child. Hide the fact that you have a child that was at the clinic. Tell Roy that he can’t tell anyone your child was there.”

“Ok, yeah, so. Fuck, it would start an uproar.”

“Hello! It already did.”

“Fuck. Who knows?”

“Everyone.”

“Are they pissed?” Frank asked.

“Very.”

“Fuck. I tried to keep it a secret. Big mouth Roy.”

“Yeah, well, Roy doesn’t know about things.”

“True.”

“That’s it?” Ellen asked. “That’s all you have to say. Why didn’t I know Frank?”

“I … I don’t know. You of all people should have known.”

“Yes. I should have.”

“You would have understood.”

“Yeah, Frank, if you would have told me at the time, I would have.”

“Don’t be pissed.”

“I’m hurt.”

Frank’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really, Frank. God.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’ll take some adjusting. Just … just …” Ellen held out her hand. “Tell me who the mother is?”

“Kelly.”

“Kelly? Who is Kelly?”

“El, do you have the brain flu?”

“No! I don’t have the brain flu, that’s a guy thing. Why would you ask?” she snapped.

“Because first you don’t remember who Johnny’s mother is, then when I say her name, you don’t know who she is?”

“Kelly.”

“Yes.”

“Oooh.” Ellen chuckled. “Kelly.”

“See it’s all coming back to you.”

“You had Johnny at the clinic?”

“Yeah, I just said that. You knew that. Brain flu again.”

“Oh my God.” Ellen laughed. She laughed hard.

“I take it you aren’t mad anymore.”

“Not at all. That is funny.”

“Yeah, I had him there to see if he could fly. Why is that funny?”

“Because you told Roy to keep it quiet, now the whole town thinks … they think you have a … never mind. Let’s let them keep thinking that, ok? it’s funny.”

“Ok.” Frank shrugged.

“I have to go back to work.” Ellen tipped toed up and kissed him. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

“Have a good meeting.” She walked to the door and stopped. “And, Frank, you’re pretty good with that.” She pointed to the dummy.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t forget the Joe Day show.” Ellen opened the door.

Bob asked, “Can I come too?”

“Yes, you may. Sorry I hit Bob.”

Frank walked to Ellen and had Bob kiss her. Ellen giggled and walked out.

After an exhale, Frank turned to Bob. “Do you have any idea what that was about?”

“Clueless.”

“Me, too.” Frank walked back to his desk, to get ready for the meeting.

*****

“Frank,” Danny Hoi was usually easy going, and even tempered. “Frank.” He closed his eyes as he stood near the Joe Park on the phone. “Fine. Bob, may I speak to Frank? Thanks.”

He nodded as he waited, catching from the corner of his eye, Jenny as she placed something on the Joe Board. Two things went through his mind, why was Jenny posting, that was a no-no, and who was with her students? Finally, Frank spoke.

“Yes, Frank, Bob was nice. Now, did he by chance relay my message?”

“Yeah, you’re missing two invisa suits.”

“Yes. Do you have them?”

“I don’t know. I might.”

“Can you check?”

“I can. But if they’re invisible, I won’t be able to see them.”

Danny held back his grumble. “Frank.”

“Yeah.”

“We acquired twenty-three suits, I counted twenty-one.”

“Is that including the one Darrell was wearing?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe if you could see it …”

“Oh my God, you have the brain virus.”

“Fuck. No. I don’t. I wasn’t messing with a computer lately.”

Danny squeezed the corner of his eyes. “Just please check. I’ll see you at the meeting.” He closed the phone, took a composing breath and walked to the Joe board.

What the hell did she post?

The moment he saw the word ‘impeach’ with the name Frank, Danny picked up the phone. “Nah,” he said out loud. “I don’t want to deal with Bob.” He paused. “What the hell am I saying?” He opened up the board, removed the notice and headed to his next destination.

It seemed to be Danny problem solving day.

Missing invisi suits, panic over the brain flu, and now Trish having a lock down.

At least that would be easy.

Trish was consumed with a phone call when Danny walked in. She paused enough to talk to him. “It’s been insane around here, Danny no one can view history.”

“Was anyone even here?” Danny asked.

“What do you think, Danny?”

“I don’t think anyone was here.”

“Well, the ghost was.”

“Oh my God. I’ll go fix the computer.”

“Be careful, Frank said the men were getting the brain virus from computers.”

“I’ll uh, keep that in mind.” Danny went into the back room. It didn’t take him long to fix the problem, the computer was locked down. The main frame history link locked up when a password was entered incorrectly three times.

Overridden, Danny had history back up and running.

Trish was done with her phone call when he emerged.

“Fixed?” she asked.

“All done.” Danny prepared to leave. “Next time make sure you remember the password.”

“It wasn’t me.”

“Who was it? You lock it down.”

“I know, but it was like that when I came in. It read the executive password entered is incorrect.”

“You’re kidding me? Man, Frank couldn’t remember the password?”

Trish snickered.

“What?” Danny asked.

“Frank never comes in here. That was the ghost.”

“What are you talking about Trish?”

She huffed out. “Danny, remember some ghost was using Joe’s password. Well I changed it and sure enough, the ghost only knew Joe’s word.”

“Really.” Danny tilted his head.

“Yep. Smart ghost.”

“Um, yeah. Just make sure you lock up at night.’

“I do. You can check lock history.”

“I will.” Danny began to leave.

“Things are weird around here,” Trish said.

“You can say that again.”

“Things are weird around here.”

Danny laughed. “Tell me about it. Ghost using a Joe password, missing invisible suits and Joe’s floating head. Then again, it’s Beginnings.” Danny with another chuckle walked outside and pulled the door closed. But the moment he stepped out he stopped.

His own words raced through his mind. Ghost using a Joe password, missing invisible suit, and a floating Joe head.

He blurted out a ‘No’ with a shake of his head as he stepped forward.

Then Danny stopped again.

His mind started spinning.

It took a few moments for Danny, but he reasoned out the insanity of his thoughts. But then he saw Dan from Security. He was coming out of the clinic and walking to where Dan believed was the down hatch to the cryo tunnels.

He had things to do, a meeting to prep for, but he wanted to talk to Dan.

“Hey, Dan, you have a minute?” Danny trotted to him.

“Actually, not too much. I have to work. I missed all day yesterday.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Mind if we talk and walk. I’m walking the cryo tunnels.”

“Sure. I have to make my way up toward the offices, I’ll use this route.”

“Sweet.” Dan lifted the hatch and climbed down, at the bottom he waited for Danny.

Although Danny had no problem climbing down the ladder, he was dressed for a business day. He straightened his long sleeve shirt and tie, and then asked, “So how are you feeling Dan?”

“Better. Much, much better.”

“Good, I’m glad.” They began to walk.


Page 9

“Say, Danny, are they gonna have a town meeting, Maybe immunize.”

“I’ll bring that up at the meeting today.”

“Because this thing is bad. You start seeing things, feeling like shit. Man.” Dan shook his head once. “I hope you don’t get it.”

“Me, too.” Danny paused. “So, with this thing, you don’t remember anything.”

“You get these black outs where you function and don’t know what you did. You suddenly wake up or snap out of it confused.”

“That sucks.”

“And the visions,” Dan from Security whistled. “Scary shit. I heard Hap saw Eleanor Roosevelt naked.”

“That’s scary.”

“Don’t know if it beats Joe’s floating head.”

“Tell me about that vision. Do you remember it or are you just telling me what people told you.”

“You mean do I remember seeing it?” Dan questioned and waited for Danny to nod. “Yeah. Clear as day.”

“Tell me about what occurred.”

“Is this for info for the meeting?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. Well, I was driving to get Robbie. He called me for a ride. Or so I think. He’s saying now he called me back and said forget it. I don’t remember that, it must have been a black out. So anyhow I drive up there, turn the bend, slow down and what do I see?”

“Joe’s floating head.”

“Yep. Just floating back and forth. It was behind Robbie, I think my illusion had it attacking Robbie.”

“Did he look normal, Dan.”

“No. He was a head.”

“I mean the head. Was it normal? Ghostly.”

“What’s this have to do with anything?”

“Trying to determine what is affected.”

“Oh.” Dan nodded. “It was normal except for the fangs.”

“Joe had fangs?”

“Big ones.”

Danny laughed. Inwardly though, not letting Dan see. Surely it was a hallucination. “So, Dan, was that what made you pass out?”

“Black out.”

“Pass out, black out? Is there a difference.”

“Big time. See Dean explained that the visual perception portion of my brain was heavily infected, and the memory portion was too. So when I had the hallucination it affected my short-term memory causing a black out. I was mobile, but just didn’t know consciously what I was doing.”

“When did you pass out?”

“I suppose after I drove to the clinic. I shut down in the waiting room.”

Danny stopped walking. “Excuse me. When you … when you drove to the clinic?”

“Yeah.”

“You remember driving there?”

“No, I was blacked out. Remember? Which, if you think about it, could have been dangerous.”

“I bet. Maybe... maybe someone took you there.”

“No, I blacked out and drove. Besides who would take me there?” Danny asked. “Let’s keep moving.”

Danny walked with Dan, but in his mind he answered the question, who would take Dan to the Hospital. Easy. Robbie. Cause Danny saw Robbie carrying Dan from Security up the clinic steps that day.

So why didn’t Robbie own up to it? Why didn’t Roy?

Danny’s mind wasn’t put at ease by talking to Dan, it was sent into more of a frenzy.

CHAPTER EIGHT

The communications room was void of anyone else but Robbie and Joe.

It is a huge communications room with panels of electronics and computers designed for more than a one or two man crew.

A railing extended in front of the stage like area just below the big board. Joe stood in that area, watching the lights on the board.

“I’ll be a son of a bitch.”

“Scary huh?” Robbie asked, holding on to the railing.

“It’s a reality check.”

“Did you know about this in the future?”

“How the hell was I gonna know about it in the future? I wasn’t there, remember?

“Yeah, that’s right. Sorry.”

“This is what the meeting is about?”

“And other things.”

“Christ.”

“Frank usually runs a tight meeting.”

“As opposed to me not.”

“I didn’t say that.” Robbie paused. “Hey Dad.”

“Yeah.”

“Can you put your hood back on? The floating head thing is kind of freaky.”

“I will. I will. We can hear if someone is coming.” Joe looked at the board again. “That’s a hell of a mass.”

“I know. This is actually the first time I have gotten a look at it. On the left it tells what they have with them as far as armory.”

Joe exhaled loudly.

“What do you think Frank’s gonna do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think this is it? The big event.”

“Nah, it isn’t this. I don’t know for sure. But my guts says this isn’t it.”

“I don’t think in the future this mass was changed.”

“I’d have to agree. Especially with Jason’s message to himself.”

“What would you do?” Robbie asked.

“I’m not telling you.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to influence.”

“Influence who? Me? I don’t make decisions, Frank does.”

“Well. Just don’t try to tell him anything.”

“Scouts honor.” Robbie held up two fingers.

“You weren’t in the Scouts.” Another look at the board and Joe faced Robbie. “We have troops massing a mere hundreds of miles from our borders. They aren’t camping, that is for goddamn sure. I’d make contact with them, see what I pick up. Find out their intentions. I’d warn them to leave or back up if I deemed them a threat, then I’d just take them out. Too close for comfort.”

Robbie nodded, and then he quickly turned at the buzz. “Door. Hood.”

Joe placed on the hood to the suit.

The communications room door opened and Jimmy stepped in surprised. “Robbie.”

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

“You have?” Jimmy asked.

“Yeah, didn’t Frank tell you I was here?”

“No. Not at all. I mean he may have I do have that brain flu.”

“I thought you were cured.”

“I am. But you never know. They said there could be a relapse and to … wow.” Jimmy stepped closer to the board. “Oh, wow. This isn’t a simulation isn’t it?”

“No.” Robbie indicated to the board. “This is what the program uncovered.”

“And I missed it.” Jimmy sat down in the chair.

“No, you were here. You figured it out.”

“So, did I discover the troops?”

“We believe you did.” Robbie said. “Dean told me you were rambling something about bright lights. Bright lights. Blinking lights. Like the movie Gremlins, then you passed out.”

“I don’t recall that.”

“Dude, you had the brain flu.”

“But I do recall the conversation with Frank this morning. He mentioned nothing about troops and … well, all that. Holy shit.”

“I know. Did he uh …” Robbie scratched his head. “Mention a meeting?”

“Yes.”

“There you have it. He’ll tell you there.” Robbie held out his hand.

Jimmy turned to the computer. “This is amazing. Look at what they’re massing. It’s like Desert Shield.”

“I know.”

“He should have told me when he spoke to me.”

“Maybe he wanted you to feel the discovery of it by showing up.”

“Jimmy shrugged. “I wish Dad were alive.” He sighed out.

“Well, you know, he’s not.” Robbie surged. “You’ll have that. A parent dies. Umf.” Robbie sailed a foot forward when Joe hit him.

Jimmy looked up. “You ok?’

“Yeah. Why?”

“That was ...that was kind of cold.”

“Sorry. You’re right. You wish Dad were alive.” Robbie exhaled loudly. “Why do you say that? Not that you wouldn’t want him alive, but why did you say that?”

“He wouldn’t keep me in the dark.”

Robbie laughed.

Again, this caught Jimmy’s attention. “What’s so funny?”

“Dad wouldn’t forget you?” Robbie snickered. “Dad always forgot you. It was him who never remembered you were around. Ow.” He tripped forward. Was that a flick to his head? “I don’t know if he liked you.” Another move forward that was a smack to the back of the head. “Ok, he liked you.”

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Fine. I keep losing my balance.”

“While standing still.”

“How do you like that?”

“Maybe you have the brain flu or virus whatever it is.”

Robbie snapped his finger. “I may. Hey, I may not even know this conversation. Will you mark down what we said just in case?”

“I will.”

“And I’m gonna go get checked.”

“Please, you don’t need to suffer with this.”

“I’m heading out now.” Robbie reached the door. “Good luck with that, bring the sheets with you to the meeting, and notes.”

Jimmy nodded. “See you in a bit. Good luck at the clinic.”

“You bet.” Robbie opened the door. He stood there holding it for a second.

“What are you doing?” Jimmy asked.

“Fresh air.”

“Fresh air? Why?”

“I uh … passed gas.”

“Ok, thanks for being considerate.”

Robbie smiled, felt the stomp to his foot, knew it was safe and stepped out. He pulled the door closed behind him.

He laughed, and then squinted his eyes when he heard muffled words come from Joe. “What was that?” he asked as he walked.

Again, more muffled.

“I can’t hear you.”

Joe stopped walking and irritated, whipped off the hood. “I said … you’re an asshole.”

An immediate scream echoed in the cryo tunnel, followed by a thump.

Both Robbie and Joe spun around.

“Goddamn it.” Joe winced in annoyance.

“Shit.” Robbie froze.

Their surprise wasn’t so much spawned by Dan from Security, who had screamed and now lay passed out on the tunnel floor, but from Danny Hoi who had crouched down to attend to him.

Danny, with a look of total shock, raised his eyes to them. “I know I don’t have brain flu. What’s going on?”

*****

Joe was getting a headache and it wasn’t the brain flu.

“Danny.” He rubbed his temples as he sat in the storage office located in the cryo tunnels. “Danny. Christ I need a drink.”

“That I can help you with,” Danny, excited, walked across the room and opened a box, pulling out a bottle and glasses. “My stash. This is so great.”

“You use this office?” Joe asked.

“It’s my hideaway. Here.” Danny poured him glass. “Have some. This is so great. You’re alive.”

“Yes, I am.” Joe downed the drink.

“It makes perfect sense. It really does.” Danny rambled, in his usual Danny manner, fast and furiously. “The password in history. You were reading history weren’t you.”

Joe nodded.

“The killer wanted you out of the way so Frank could be president and make a decision only Frank would make. But you weren’t gonna die you were only gonna hide.”

“Yes.”

“Are you done hiding now?”

“No!” Joe snapped. “Not by a long shot. So you can’t tell a soul.”

“I swear.” Danny pretended to zip up his mouth. “I promise not to tell a soul.”

“I mean it.” Joe pointed at him. “I hear from our clone that you are very influential in the future. I wouldn’t want to kill you.”

“Won’t say a word. Scout’s honor.”

“Were you in the Scouts?”

“All the way to Eagle.”

“Figures.” Joe grumbled. “Danny …”

“Who all knows?”

“Too many.” Joe peered at Robbie. “Which makes me wonder if all that we did will be undone.”

“There’s a way to tell. We can go to the future pay a visit and check progress.”

“You guys got the time machine working?” Danny asked.

Robbie snickered. “HG Wells.”

“Sweet!” Danny grinned. “Joe, I had a feeling that you weren’t dead. I thought maybe it was wishful thinking, but I had a gut instinct. I’m psychic like that at times, you know.”

“You don’t say.” Joe said. “What made you think that?”

“Frank.”

Both Joe and Robbie looked at him.

“He didn’t mourn. So he knew.” Danny watched them both. “He doesn’t know?”

“No.” Joe shook his head. “And for the sake of mankind. He can never know. All decisions have to be his without my influence. But there is one decision we have to make and make now.”

“What’s that?” Danny asked.

“What are we gonna do about …” Joe pointed to the closed door. “Dan from Security. He’s still laying on the cryo floor.”

*****

“Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis,” Andrea stated as she dropped the chart so exasperated on Dan from Security’s bed.

“Brain flu again?”

“A virus. It’s a virus, they are a bit trickier,” Andrea stated.

“So I relapsed?”

“We don’t think it was so much of a relapse as we didn’t get it all. We shouldn’t have released you so soon,” Andrea stated. “Lord knows we are running out of beds. But, the good news is, Dean will be bringing a serum that he guarantees will cure you, get rid of it for good.”

“I don’t understand,” Dan looked at Andrea then to Danny who kept his head down. “Why is Joe’s head my hallucination?”

“Well, Dean has a theory and I think it’s quite good. Hap sees Eleanor Roosevelt naked because his wife looked like her. Hector is seeing running tomatoes because he’s buried in them. You see Joe’s head because you miss his wisdom. You only see his head because really, where else did you look at him.”

“Makes sense.”

At that instant, Danny blurted out a coughing laugh. He covered it with a whimpering sorry.

Andrea shook her head compassionately.

“How did I get here?” Dan asked.

Danny sighed out sadly. “I … I found you.”

“No, you were with me. You had to have seen the head. The white face. The fangs. The ghoulish hunger in his eyes and …”

“Sweet Jesus, stop.” Andrea covered her ears.

“Sorry,” Dan whispered. “That was insensitive of me. But you saw it, Danny, right?”

“No, I didn’t.” Danny sniffled. “You ...you looked so sick. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to keep it together.” He squeezed his eyes. “Robbie and I heard you scream.”

“Robbie was there.”

“No, he was with me. The last we saw you was at the cryo lab. Don’t you remember?” Danny asked.

“No.”

“Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis” Andrea stated. “It does that.”

“I knew something was weird about you. You started acting strange. I blame myself.” Danny sniffed. “I blame myself.”

“No, no, baby.” Andrea squeezed his shoulders. “There is nothing you could have done. But there is something you can do now.”

“What’s that?”

“Stop this madness. Stop this thing from spreading any further. Please. Dean has an antidote, let’s start hitting these men.”

“You can count on me, Andrea. I’ll personally see that we put an end to this Modula Oblong …”

“Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis.”

“Yes. That word.” Danny peered up with confidence. “Let no man suffer, like Dan has suffered. No one deserves to see a floating Joe vampire head.”

Andrea lowered her glances. “Sweet Jesus, demonic visions of my Joe. A nightmare.”

Thinking, ‘Oh my God’ what have we started; Danny lowered his head and face from sight before he laughed again.

*****

For some reason, Hal was starting to think that Elliott welcomed the phone call regarding the brain virus, because he broke into a strategy conversation about it. Hal supposed he was whining, probably more brother jealousy. After all, he was Vice President why would Frank go to someone else for advice.

And who was Bob?

“I’m thinking perhaps a meeting tomorrow, Captain. All the men, those who are sleeping from the night shift we can get word to them.”


Page 10

“Sounds good,” Hal said distantly, as he stared off.

“Perhaps once Dr. Hayes gets a lot of the serum together then we can have an inoculation day and put an end to this.”

“Sounds good.”

“This really has me concerned so close to the war. Do you think maybe it’s a biological weapon?’

“Who is Bob?” Hal sat back.

“Captain, have you heard me.”

“Yes, yes, I did Elliot. But who is this Bob? Do we know a Bob?”

“The only Bob I know is the soldier from the future.”

“Yes, but Bob as an advisor?” Hal chuckled. “He barely gets out the word ‘ug’.”

“Captain, I was merely tossing out names.”

“Sorry.”

“And you have to let this go. If not it will drive you nuts.”

“Doesn’t he trust me, Elliott? Is that what it is?”

“You have different visions.”

“Not when it comes to war.”

“True.” Hal exhaled. “You know what I’m going to do?”

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to tell my brother how I feel. Just let him know it made me feel badly that he went to someone else.”

“I think that’s a good idea. Now what about this brain virus?”

“Oh.” Hal waved out his hand. “There is no brain virus.”

“But Captain, men are coming down with it.”

“Elliott, this is Beginnings.” Hal opened the door when the truck stopped. “It’s all made up and suddenly we have a psycho epidemic on our hands. Trust me.”

“If you say so.”

“Now. Onward to my brother’s office.” Leading the way to the new office, Hal knocked once and when the ‘Come in’ rang out, he opened the door. “Am I early?”

“A little,” Frank said standing. “Come in. We can talk. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“Certainly, I too.” Hal walked in. He took a seat, as did Elliott.

“You first,” Frank said.

“Good. I need to get something off my chest.”

“As long as it’s not hair. We don’t need the mess.”

Elliott snickered.

“Shush,” Hal told him. “Frank. You are my big brother.”

“I am.”

“You are the president.”

“I am.”

“I am the vice president.”

“I am not.”

“Frank!”

“What!”

“Let me finish.”

“Fuck. Yell at me. Go on.”

Hal composed himself. “I am supposed to be your right hand man, yet … yet you’re leaving me out. You’ve found some … some stranger to advise you on military matters.”

Frank rubbed his goatee. “And this bothers you.”

“Yes, yes it does. Call it jealousy, what have you. But I feel I should be the first person you come to for advice. As a brother and as you co president.”

“You’re right. But Bob is so smart.”

Hal nodded. “I’m sure he is.”

“I mean, Hal, it’s amazing. He thinks just like me.”

“Really.” Hal tilted his head.

“Has the same experience. And he can finish my sentences. Weird. He knows what I’m thinking as I think it.”

“That’s quite a connection. How long have you known him?” Hal shifted in his seat.

“Not long.”

“He’s fun, Hal, got me in some trouble today. But fun. Wanna meet him.”

“I suppose if he’s advising you I should.”

Frank stood up. “And Hal, you’ll always be my top advisor.”

“Thanks, Frank.” Hal folded his hands “That means a lot.”

“You’re my brother. I love you. But let me get Bob. He’s in the bathroom.” Frank walked to the bathroom door. “Taking a while, too. I hope he’s all right.” Frank knocked. “Bob?”

Hal stood, so did, Elliott.

Frank opened the door and stepped in. “Hey, you ok?” He came out of the bathroom with … Bob.

Elliott’s eyes widened.

“That’s …” Hal pointed.

“Bob,” Frank maneuvered him. “Say hi.”

“Hi Hal.” Bob said.

“Good Fucking God,” Hal wisped out. “There is something wrong with you.”

“Me or Bob?”

“Frank. …Excuse me for a second.” Hal turned.

“Where you going?”

“Out to calm down before I kill you. Excuse me.” Again, Hal turned around. When he did he leaned into Elliott who had his head down. “Stop laughing.” Saying no more, Hal stormed out.

“Whoa.” Frank walked back to his desk. “I guess he didn’t think it was funny.”

Elliott took his seat. “Give it time. The captain is just a little... taken aback.”

Bob’s head turned to Frank. “I don’t think he liked me.”

*****

Hal needed fresh air and a clear mind. He reminded himself that he was dealing with Frank and possibly, Frank was just joking with him. Still, he felt foolish, all that bantering about Bob.

The insecurities, the feeling of being shafted.

Hal could only image how badly Frank was going to torture him regarding it.

Then again, it was possible that Frank wouldn’t even see the stupidity of it. After all, it was Frank.

Outside, having a cigarette convincing himself that he really didn’t want to kill Frank, and that he would pay him back somehow, Hal saw Robbie walking his way.

“Hey, Hal.”

“Robbie.”

“What are you doing outside?”

“Calming down.”

“The meeting didn’t even start yet.”

“Yes, I realize this, but our brother already has me upset. He calls this morning, tells me about a new advisor he has, someone who thinks like Frank, and is helpful.”

“A new advisor?” Robbie asked. “Military advisor.”

“Oh, yes.”

“Who?”

“Bob.”

“Who is Bob? You mean the guy from the future.”

“No, it seems Bob is a ventriloquist’s dummy.”

“Oh my God.” Robbie started to laugh.

“I’m glad you find humor in it.”

“I do. Because I can see you feeling slighted.”

“I did,” Hal said. “Then I made a fool out of myself.”

“If it makes you feel better, I bet you’re not the only one today he did that to.”

“Thanks.” Hal sulked. “Shall we go in and wait for the others.”

“Sounds good. After you. Pretty excited, the first meeting in the new office.”

Hal opened the door and took a step. He stopped to say one more thing to Robbie and as he did, he felt the weight hit into him.

“Good God.” Hal spun around.

Robbie wasn’t near him.

“Man you knocked me ten feet back, Hal.” Robbie said shaking his head.

“I would imagine with how fast you hit into me.” Hal opened his mouth. “Shit.”

“What?”

“Something I wanted to tell you but forgot.”

“It’ll come to you.”

“Yes, I’m sure, after Frank and his meeting damages my brain.”

“At least it’s not the brain flu.”

With an ‘Hmm’, Hal walked in.

****

The new office didn’t take long to be constructed and it was not only bigger, but also nicer.

The front portion was reminiscent of Joe’s old office, only a meeting room was added to the back.

There were waiting for three others to arrive, Jimmy, Danny and George.

“Let’s go wait in the meeting room,” Robbie suggested.

Frank shrugged. “Yeah, that will work. You want to leave a note?”

“Ok.” Robbie grabbed paper.

“Wait.” Hal reached out and stopped Robbie.

“What?”

“Why must you encourage his behavior?”

“What’s he doing?”

“Yeah,” Frank interjected. “What did I do?”

“You want to write a note,” Hal said. “To who?”

“Whom, you mean.”

“Who,” Hal said.

“Captain,” Elliott whispered. “I believe it is whom’’

“Yes, let’s all pick on me.”

“You started it.” Frank pointed. “What did I do?’

“You want to write note.”

“Yeah, so people know where we are. I don’t want them coming in here and thinking the meeting is over.”

“Frank.”

“What?”

“The meeting room is right there,” Hal pointed. “Why not just leave the door open.”

“To my office?”

“No!” Hal blasted. “To the meeting room.”

“Oh!” Frank snapped his finger. “That’s a good idea. No wonder you’re vice president.”

“Yes, it amazes me what little qualification and brain power it takes to be a leader around here.” Hal stood up. “Let’s go in the other room.”

Frank just stared.

“Frank?”

“Hal, remember I said I had to talk to you about something.”

“Yes,”

“Can we do that now? Please?”

Hal, noticing the seriousness on his brother’s face, nodded. “Absolutely. Here?”

“Outside.”

“Sounds serious.”

“Not really, it’s a rash.”

“Ex... Excuse me?”

“I want to show you a rash.” Frank twitched his head.

“Would that rash go along with that tick you have developed?”

“More than likely.”

“Fine. Lt’s go look at your rash. Where would this rash be?”

“I’d rather not say.”

Hal cleared his throat. “Let’s go.”

“Elliot, can you and Robbie get situated in the meeting room.”

“Certainly, Frank.” Elliott stood. “Gentlemen.”

Robbie followed Elliott.

When alone, Hal asked. “What’s up?”

Frank motioned his head toward the door. “Come on outside.” Frank opened the door and stepped out.

“What’s going on?” Hal asked. “You obviously don’t have a rash.”

“I might. You never know.”

“Frank.”

“Robbie.” Frank said. “I’m worried about him.”

“In what way.”

“He’s being different.”

“I noticed that.”

“What exactly did you notice?” Frank asked.

“Just return to normal.”

“Ah-huh, like getting over Dad’s death.”

“Yes, exactly.”

Frank grumbled.

“What is it?”

“First we have him digging up Dad’s grave to do a séance.”

“I thought you saw nothing wrong with that.”

“I didn’t, but now … now …” Frank looked back at the door. “Robbie is thinking Dad’s thoughts.”

“Well, Frank, our father was a great man with great ideas of course …”

“No, Hal, he’s thinking them as Dad.”

“What do you mean?”

“His thoughts sound as if they are Dad.”

“Good Lord.”

“I know. It’s fuckin odd.”

“Tell me about it. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I don’t know, you’re blocking your thoughts. What are you thinking?”

“That Robbie may be trying to take on Dad’s personality to cover up for his loss and feelings of loss.”

“Huh?”

Frustrated, Hal replied. “He’s thinking he’s Dad to make up for missing him.”

“Oh, that’s a good suggestion. But not what I’m worried about.”

“What are you worried about Frank?”

“Robbie was digging up Dad’s grave, right?”

“Yes.”

“He had a séance, right?”

“Right.”

“What if he conjured up Dad’s spirit and now he’s possessed.”

Hal stared.

“Hal?”

“You’re retarded.” With that, Hal walked by Frank in the office.

 

Danny Hoi arrived, seeming a bit disheveled, he blamed that on the brain virus, the paranoia of which seemed to be sweeping Beginnings.

Everyone but George had arrived, including Jimmy who brought documents and maps and was posting them.

George would be along shortly and advised Frank to begin and save the main stuff for last.

For the meeting Frank excused himself from the room and returned with Bob. “Ok,” Frank said. “Let’s start with this …”

“What are you doing?” Hal asked.

“Starting the meeting, George said …”

“No.” Hal interrupted. “With the doll.”

“What doll.”

Bob leaned forward. “I thinking he’s talking about me.”

“Isn’t he nice, Hal thinks you’re cute?”

“Frank!” Hal yelled. “Get rid of Bob.”

“Why? I told you he’s my new advisor.”

“Frank, I refuse to have the meeting with that dummy attached to your arm.”


Page 11

“He’s not a dummy. He’s smart.”

“I’m sure his IQ equals that of yours,” Hal said. “But you can’t have him here.”

“Hal, you need to hear his thoughts on things.”

“Good God.”

“Watch.” Frank looked at Bob. “What do you think about Hal?”

“I think he sucks.”

Robbie laughed.

”What do you think about Robbie.”

“He’s great.”

“Stop it.” Hal stood. “Put down the doll, Frank. We know you are speaking for him, we can see your lips move.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can!” Hal got angry. “Now put away the doll!”

“Fine. Fuck. Yell at me, I’m just having fun.” Frank walked in the other room, when he disappeared; he stuck Bob through the door. “You suck Hal.”

Hal plopped down in the seat.

Robbie commented, “I like the doll.”

“You would.”

Frank returned. “Ok, now that I feel so lonely. Let’s begin. Let’s start with the virus. What do you have?” He looked at Danny.

Danny passed him a sheet. “I can’t pronounce it. But it’s there. But it’s a non-airborne virus, testosterone bred that effects the brain.”

Frank looked at the paper. “What the fuck?” he squinted at the sheet.

Hal asked. “Does anyone else find this bizarre? A testosterone virus that affects the brain.”

“Mo … Mo …” Frank shook his head.

“I mean,” Hal continued. “It sounds made up. Like it’s a cover up for something.”

Danny explained. “So far 45 men have it.”

Frank spoke out loud. “Mo … du … oh, got it. Modula Oblongata Hypo…des…amentra…yachictitis. Yeah.”

Robbie laughed. “Can you spell that word without looking? I mean, you shouldn’t say words unless you can spell them.”

“Then our brother would never speak,” Hal said. “Let me see this paper.” He took it. “Modula Oblongata Hypodesamentrayachictitis. That doesn’t even sound real.”

“It’s real, Hal.” Frank barked. “Men are seeing things. Dad’s floating head. George Bush in a tutu. Does that sound normal to you?”

“Yes,” Hal said. “For Beginnings. Everyone in this town is insane.”

“Hal, it’s real. There’s only one other reason for someone seeing Dad’s floating head.”

“And, afraid to ask,” Hal placed his index finger on his eye to stop the twitch. “What reason would that be?”

Robbie looked at Danny.

Frank replied. “Robbie brought back Dad’s spirit when he dug up his grave and had a séance.”

Robbie breathed out. “That makes sense. Maybe we should have another séance to send him back.”

Frank pointed. “Good idea.”

“Ok. Ok. Enough,” Hal stated. “Let’s get this brain flu subject over and move on.”

“Ok.” Frank said. “What do you suggest? Anyone?”

Danny lifted his hand. “Let’s end this all at once. Have a town meeting, have Dean plan one big inoculation day and end this.”

“Sounds good,” Frank nodded. “I’ll prepare a speech.”

Hal exhaled. “Will it be your standard Frank crisis speech where you just change the subject?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good God.”

Danny looked at Hal. “It works, so why fix something that’s broke.”

“Fine. Let me know the town meeting date and I’ll have one too.”

“Good. Let’s move on. Wow.” Frank sat back.

“What?” Hal asked.

“We’re just moving along. Unlike when Dad had his meetings, huh?” Frank looked at Robbie. “Hey! You wanna call me names say them don’t think them.”

“Well, quit reading my mind.”

“Quit calling me a moron in your mind.”

“Quit reading my mind and you won’t have to hear them.”

“Quit thinking so loud or I wouldn’t have to hear them.”

Elliott interjected. “Gentlemen, please. Can we proceed? What is the next order of business Frank?’

“The invisible suits.”

Hal questioned, “What about them?”

“I know this is difficult, and you may not see it, cause you know, it’s invisible, but keep your eye out for one, we’re missing one.”

Danny quickly said, “No we’re not.”

Frank jolted a view his way. “Yes we are.”

“No,” Danny shook his head. “We aren’t.”

“But you said we are.”

“That was before?”

“Before what?”

“Before this morning when I knew better.” Danny said.

“But it wasn’t before I knew better.”

Hal lifted his hand. “Are we missing a suit or aren’t we?”

“Yes.” Frank said.

“No.” Danny retorted.

“Danny, you said we were missing a suit.”

“I know, but I was wrong.”

“No, you weren’t.” Frank shook his head. “I went to the lock box. I counted just to double check. You said there were twenty three suits to start with. There were twenty-one in the box. Now, taking into account the Darrell suit. One plus twenty-one is twenty-two. Twenty-two minus twenty-one is one. One missing suit. See. Basic math.” Frank pointed to his temple. “Live it learn it, use it.”

Hal looked at Elliott and whispered. “And he didn’t use his fingers. How proud I am.”

“Hal!” Frank snapped. “Bite me.”

“Grow up.”

“We have a crisis here,” Frank said. “We’re missing an invisible suit.”

“No,” Danny said annoyed. “We aren’t. I was wrong.”

“No, you weren’t. I counted.”

“And you did well.” Danny continued. “But, Frank I was wrong about how many we originally had. We had one less than I thought we had.”

“So if we had one less then you thought we had, we now have one more than we thought we had.”

Danny shook his head. “What ... What are you talking about?”

“By one less, you mean, you counted wrong?”

“Yes.”

“And you mean we have one less than you originally thought we had?”

“Yes.”

“So we have one more.”

“How do you figure?” Danny asked.

Hal shot a glare to Robbie who snickered.

Frank explained. “You thought we had Twenty three, but you meant to think we had twenty-two, when you counted, you counted twenty-one, but you were wrong and there was one less, so actually there were twenty suits, meaning we had twenty one to begin with, I counted in the Darrell suit and that made twenty-two. So we have one more than we thought. Or would it be two? Fuck. Where are the extra suits coming from?”

Hal’s hand smoothed against his mouth as he spoke into his fingers in a muffled manner. “There goes that basic math, live it, learn it, and use it, tool he was boasting.”

Elliot decided to explain. “Frank, you’re confused.”

“I am.”

Hal said. “I’m sure.”

Elliott ignored him. “Frank, when Danny originally counted, he thought he counted twenty-three when in fact he only counted twenty-two.”

Frank stared.

After a moment of silence, figuring Frank wasn’t catching on, Elliott continued. “He erred Frank. There were only originally twenty-two suits. Not twenty-three.”

“So where did the numbers twenty and twenty-one come from?”

“I … uh ….you …” Elliott fluttered his lips. “I don’t know. Gees. But, there are no missing suits, because you counted twenty-one and with Darrell’s, that makes twenty-two so we’re good.”

“Oh. Ok. That’s good.” Frank sighed. “I don’t want a missing suit. They’d be hard to find. Unless of course, we’re only missing the hood, then they’d be easy to find because we’d have someone walking around looking like a floating head.” He chuckled “All right. Next …”

Fuck. Did anyone else catch it? Robbie wondered. Robbie hurriedly looked about the room in the second after Frank’s joke. Danny gazed up, and with a shift of his eyes he saw Hal look in question, briefly. Elliott turned a page and Jimmy prepared papers. No. Hal’s look was Robbie’s imagination. He couldn’t believe Frank said that.

Stop. Robbie not only worried about what he was wondering, and even though he wasn't wondering too clearly, he now worried and wondered if Frank was reading his mind about what he was wondering.

Fuck. He thought.

“Yes,” Frank said and looked at him.

“Fuck.” Robbie said back.

“What am I missing?” Hal asked.

“Robbie is having rambling thoughts about whether or not I am reading his thoughts about my joke. I told him yes. I could hear his thoughts. And to what you were wondering, I don’t think so. I don’t; think anyone thought it was funny. Shame. I thought it was fuckin funny.”

“Me too, Frank. I just couldn’t believe no one else laughed.”

“I’m confused,” Hal tossed up his hands.

Frank waved. “It happens. Must run in the family. Anyhow …” Frank sighed. “We’ll move on when George …”

At that second George walked in. “Sorry I’m late.”

Frank held out his hand. “He’s here. No need to wait. Come in. We’re just about to get started on the big stuff.”

George pulled up a chair. “What did I miss?”

“Don’t ask,” Hal said. “Please, don’t ask.”

“Hal. Not cool,” Frank interjected. “We don’t want George to feel left out. I’ll recap…” Frank pulled a paper forward.

“I’ll take a cigarette break.” Hal stood up and excused himself.

He could hear the recap when he walked out into the front office. Even the recap was going to drive him nuts. Needing to get further way, he walked outside for some sanity and air.

****

What was it about Beginnings meetings? Hal inhaled the last hit of his cigarette. The meetings took so long and a recap? What in the world could take so long for a recap? As he turned to go back in, the door to Frank’s office opened.

George stepped out. When George had arrived, his hair was night and combed. Now it was tossed, pulled some, as if he ran his fingers through it a million times.

“We’re done with the recap. If you want to come back in,” George said.

“Awfully long recap.”

“I think we may have drifted off subject.”

“I see you have encountered a Frank moment.”

“Frank?” George asked. “No. Frank was fine. Danny Hoi.”

“Danny?”

“We started about the virus, when we moved on to the invisible suit, Danny switched gears and started going back to the virus and the potential it could cause for harming the spring presentation of Guys and dolls. Which wouldn’t have been too bad, and then he went into a critique of the actors. Christ. We never got to the invisible suit. I couldn’t take it, Frank couldn’t take it. He moved it along and said to come and get you.”

“Glad I missed it.”

“Well, I’m jealous of that. Let’s go.” George reopened the door. “Oh, wait.”

“Yes?”

“Need a little medicine before we go back in. Keep my blood pressure down.”

“You’re ill?” Hal asked.

“Not at all. I’m just prepared. I know how meetings run in Beginnings.” Reaching into his back pocket, George pulled out a flask. He took a swig and extended it to Hal. “Want some.”

“Don’t mind if I have a little medicine myself.” Hal took a drink, gasped at the pure feel of it, readied to return it, then thinking once more about Frank’s meeting, took another drink before giving back the flask and heading into the building.

 

Jimmy had placed maps on the board, along with diagrams and satellite photos. He held the information in his hand for the meeting.

Frank gave him the floor. “As all of you know by the information packet I have given you, we have approximately 2400 troops positioned 324 miles northeast of the Montana border. Their garrison includes heavy artillery, tanks, trucks you name it. From what I can see, there are no more bigger movements coming, and they have established camp.”

Hal lifted his hand. “Our scout spotted eight men weeks ago, so they have been there that long.”

Jimmy added. “My observation, and my experience tell me they aren’t moving in. Rather positioning.”

George furthered. “To move out eventually. Our way.” He dropped his pencil and rubbed his eyes. “Frank?”

“They are there for a reason. Obvious. Waiting for something. Hanging back.”

“So why? Why are they hanging back?” Danny asked.

“Like I said,” Frank continued. “Waiting.”

“For?”

“The big hit. Back up, I suppose, Plan B.”

Everyone looked at him with questions.

Robbie raised his hand. “What are you going do? What should we do? Make contact?”

“No.”

“Attack them?” Danny suggested.

“That’s what I would do,” George said. “Just take them out.”

“No.” Frank shook his head.

Hal spoke, “They have one of our men. They took him prisoner.”

“And I’m correct,” Frank said. “He’ll be set free. Set free with a little message saying they mean no harm, they are just setting up a civilization.”


Page 12

George questioned. “You don’t want to launch an attack. Contact first, get a feel and attack.”

“No. Absolutely not. I’ll tell you why. We don’t want to prematurely launch into anything before we are ready. Fuck, I just moved Doyle camp out east to train men. I need to bring back at least 1,000 troops to set up a perimeter and circumference in case they move. I still have to do the trickledown effect and train Society men. No one is ready for an all-out ground war. Not yet.”

“But it’s only 2400 men,” George said.

“Exactly, and 2400 men does not a Great War make,” Frank explained. “Here’s my theory.” Frank positioned by the map. “They came by boat across the Alaskan Straights. Meaning they have been planning this a while. The first wave of arrivals. The others, I suspect will arrive in bigger waves coming in our East Coast and up the Gulf. The west is a waste for the same reason they are coming here.”

Elliott spoke out. “The Frederickson.”

“Exactly. They knew it was coming, they knew they couldn’t survive; the only way to live is move the entire civilization here. But how?”

“So we are to assume they aren’t friendly?” Danny asked.

“They aren’t. Not with that man power and arsenal. If they had the technology to move here like that, they have radios, they could have tried to make contact. Right now, they aren’t real sure what we have but I guaran fuckin tee that they know there’s something, why else are they so positioned by Beginnings.”

George answered that. “Because Beginnings was unknowingly tapped into the satellites, the east wasn’t.”

Frank nodded. “Exactly. They aren’t sure about the east.”

“You know.” George partially shrugged. “I hate to be a I told you so person, but. I told you so. I have been saying that we were going to get invaded from across the ocean for so long. Hence why I never used any means of communication that tapped into satellites.”

“I know. And like I said, Beginnings did tap into satellites.” Frank nodded. “In fact … they may think Beginnings is the only pocket of life. Come in the east, up the gulf, no response, these guys come down and battle us. Right now, they probably don’t think they have a fight on their hands. They probably think we’re a dead country. They can just walk on the land. Take it. And honestly, if we didn’t see this coming or have knowledge of the Great War, they probably wouldn’t. It was a country divided, now we’re training or this. We’re preparing for this.”

“Aside from the satellite signals of Beginnings, what would make them assume we were a dead country?” Hal asked.

“Because they hit us before.” Frank said.

All the men in the room, at the same time, called out ‘what?’

“Last year,” Frank explained. ‘That little wayward nuke that hit off target in Virginia. We thought it was the Savages; remember because it just went off. I’m telling you it was them. They sent it. By their guesses, they send a nuke, if we are technologically up and running, we’d trace it see where it came from and try to retaliate. We did retaliate, but not against them. So … they received no response. They think we’re dead.”

George and Hal both sat back with a heavy sigh.

“So here’s my game plan,” Frank said. “2400 men are nothing. I can fuckin bet any money they don’t have our weapons technology. We can take out 2400 men the second they become mobile with one plan and two hits of Dean Ami. I don’t worry about them. I still want to set up a perimeter, a couple hundred miles back with our men. I don’t want them to know. Mark my word; they’ll release Hal’s man within a few days. They’re set up. In the meantime, I want to train on the fast track, get our men ready. Mobilize 20,000 troops down south. Get out the Air Force in gear and position them. Just in case.”

Hal lifted a hand. “Just in case. Just in case what?”

“Just in case we can’t get to the south.”

“I’m confused,” Hal said. “Twenty thousand troops down south in the gulf.”

“Maybe more. Maybe even thirty.”

“Good God Frank, if they are going to hit us, the bigger hit is gonna come from the East along the eastern seaboard.”

“I know.”

“We’ll need more men to protect our East Coast.”

Frank shook his head. “We have the ALS3. How will a huge movement get to us?”

“Ships,” Hal replied.

“We’ll see them coming thousands of miles ahead of time. We’ll see something that big coming from the east.”

“And?’

“And we take them out before they even hit our shore.” Frank turned to Jimmy. “I want you on the East Coast and I want you there stat, this is what you did in the old world.”

“You want…” Jimmy’s words trailed.

Frank nodded. “Our nuclear subs are still equipped. How many nukes George, right now, off hand.”

George thought. “Four or five hundred. Nowhere near ready …”

“I know.” Frank cut him off. “That’s where Jimmy comes in, he’ll get our SLBM systems on track and ready to go. Gentlemen, we’ll see them coming, that big of a movement calls for ships, and let me tell you, they may cross the ocean…” Frank turned toward the room. “But they’ll never set foot on our fucking land.”

*****

Bertha Callahan finished her phone call with Frank; it wasn’t long, but informative enough for her to relay information.

Mike looked exhausted, the time spent in prison had worn him out and the freedom was taking its toll.

“Doyle should be here by tomorrow,” Callahan said. “We need to come up with a training strategy. He’s en route right now with the first portion of the convoy.”

“When will the rest arrive?”

“They won’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Our trickle down training will have to move rapidly. Once we train me then the others will come. Seems they got the ALS3 up and running and the satellite showed 2400 men positioned 300 plus miles north of Beginnings.”

“What the fuck?”

“Beginning of the Great War.”

“Frank gonna take them out?”

Bertha shook his head. “No, he doesn’t want to inadvertently start a war that we aren’t ready for.”

“Makes sense.”

“Jimmy Slagel will be arriving in a few days. In the pre plague world he was a nuclear technician on subs and he’s coming down to get our SLBM’s back in working condition.”

“Holy shit.” Mike said. “Another Slagel?”

“Yeah, but you will like James. He’s not like the others. We have our work cut out and I suggest you start now on a game plan. You will be in charge of training on tactical maneuvers. We’ll be moving 70% of our main force south.”

“South?” Mike asked. “What about our East Coast?”

“Frank has other plans for protecting that.”

“I bet.”

“This thing, you know, the Great War, seemed like a bad psychic prediction to me.”

“But with the discovery of those 2400 men …”

Callahan exhaled and took a seat. “It’s now real.”

****

“I got a class starting in a half an hour,” George said. “Frank keep me posted.” He shook hands with Frank.

Hal and Elliott both pulled their bandanas from their pockets.

“We’ll get our men ready for the inoculation. Let me know when that’s going to be.” Hal said to Frank.

“Got it.”

They too, behind George exited the front portion of the office.

Robbie waited. He wanted to wait until everyone was gone. Either walk out with Joe alone, do his new thing of holding open the door so Joe could leave. But he had no idea where Joe was. He didn’t sense him by him. With a questioning look, Robbie stared at Danny.

Danny shrugged as if he knew what Robbie was asking.

“I understand Frank,” Jimmy said. “I take this as an honor.”

“I’m sorry to take you away from Beginnings when you are just starting to get your life. But Danny can learn the ALS3. We need you where you are most important.”

“I understand.”

“Thank you,” Frank laid his hand on his shoulder and walked Jimmy to the door. He opened it for him. “I’ll catch you later, ok?”

“Thanks.”

Frank stood at the door. “Robbie? Danny? You coming.”

Robbie looked at Danny, then to Frank. “Um, sure Frank.” Robbie told him. “Are you leaving too?”

“Yeah. I want to get to the clinic, talk to Andrea and get that done before I go to Containment. It’s Joe Day, remember?”

“Joe Day?” Robbie asked. “Man, I’m out of the loop. What... what is that?”

“Oh, the residents are putting on a production highlighting the best Joe moments and a tribute to Dad so …” Frank’s head quickly turned to the right to where no one, or seemingly no one was there.

“Frank?”

“Huh?”

“You ok?” Robbie asked.

“Yeah. Yeah.” Frank stared at the empty spot.

Danny clapped his hands loudly. “Hey, let’s go, I have work to do and I want to get to Joe Day.” He rushed to the door. “Robbie?”

Robbie walked to the door as well. He figured if they were all leaving the office then his father could too when it was all clear. “Yep. Behind you.”

He and Danny walked out.

Frank took a step forward and pulled closed the door. He began to walk with them but stop. “You guys go on.”

“We can wait.” Danny said.

“No, no, I forgot I was gonna fax something to Callahan. Go on. I’ll see you at Containment. One hour.” After a quick wave, Frank trotted back to the office.

Danny and Robbie watched him go inside.

“Dan?” Robbie said with worry.

“Nah, Joe’s fine. He’ll wait then when Frank leaves, he’ll leave.” Danny put a guiding hand on Robbie’s back to keep him moving. “Joe’s fine.”

 

It wouldn’t be long, Joe figured, until he could safely leave the office. He’d wait a few minutes, peek out the new window when all was safe, he’d open the door and find Danny.

He had to admit, he was a bit jealous about the new office. It didn’t have that military installation feel, but a part of Joe thought it was just too modern.

Well, about as modern as one could be in a post apocalypse world.

It was far too neat. Frank hadn’t settled in yet. He was still putting things in their place to keep the office looking good.

Except for that doll.

Bob the dummy was perched on the chair.

Only Frank would find solace in a dummy. A friend. Joe chuckled when he looked at Bob with his goatee drawn on its face. The dummy sported camouflage clothes, Joe was pretty certain they were once Billy or Joey’s.

Next thing Joe figured, Frank would cut the dummy’s hair.

It was tempting; Joe had to admit, to lift that dummy.

No one was around, what the hell? He lifted the doll. He turned it over to find where Frank put his hand, and Joe located the opening Frank made underneath the dummy’s cover.

Just as he did so, just as he had it and lifted it in his arms, the door opened and Frank walked in.

Frank froze.

Joe could only imagine what Frank saw considering Joe was wearing the invisible suit.

“Fuck,” Frank wisped out.

‘Shit. Goddamn it,’ Joe thought and he shouldn’t have.

“Uh!” Frank shut the door eyes on the dummy. He slowly neared it. A step, he stopped, turned his head, looked around, then eye that dummy.

What to do.? Joe had to think quickly, too quickly for Frank to pick up. He had no choice, he dropped the dummy.

Bob fell to the desk.

Frank released another ‘Uh!’ and walked to the desk. He poked the dummy. Then poked it again.

Ok, Joe shouldn’t have, but he did.

“Ow.”

“Uh!” Frank jumped back. He stared, and then lifted his hand. “Ok. Get it together. Fuck.” He took a deep breath, charged for the dummy, swiped it up and lifted it to stare eye-to-eye.

Frank tilted his head, spun around and placed the dummy on top of the file cabinet. “I’ll deal with you later. Right now I have a fax.” Frank shook his head and went into the other room. “Fuckin spirits.”

The second he disappeared into the meeting room and shut the door, Joe knew it was safe. He heard the shuffle of papers, and Joe took that as his chance to leave. He peeked out the window, saw an all clear and reached for the door.

But, he paused.

It was Frank.

So just for shits and giggles, Joe lifted Bob, moved him back to the desk, and put him in Frank’s chair.

The sound of the fax machine was Joe’s freedom signal, and after another peek out the window, he left Frank’s office.

CHAPTER NINE

Elliott figured Ellen was busy, but never did he expect to see all the hoopla happening at Containment. He toted in his wrapped gift, had to pause while two men walked by him carrying PA equipment.

“Where do you want the mini karaoke, Ellen?” The one asked.

“In the back room, thanks.” Ellen’s voice carried. “Chester, Chester, spread the cookies out more. Thanks. Spread the cookies out more thanks.”

“Ellen they brought the shirts.”

”Excellent the cast is in the dining area, thanks.” Finally a face to the voice, she emerged from the skills room turned in the hall to walk to her office.

The moving bodies made way and she spotted Elliott. She smiled and walked to him.

“Elliott,” she breathed out. “This is a surprise.”

“I was hoping so. I brought you something.” He brought the gift to eye level.

“For me?”

“Of course.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“I figured you could use a pick me up today.”

“Oh, I can. Come in my office.” She kissed him on the cheek and holding his arm walked into her office.

Elliott closed the door.

“Please, sit down.” She showed him a chair, the rolled her chair to join him.

Elliott waited for her to be seated, and then he took his seat.

“Can I?” Ellen asked of the gift.

“Please.”

She unwrapped it like an impatient child on Christmas. “Oh … Oh Elliott, I have been wanting this.”

“I know. Ben from Fabrics told me.”

“This is awesome.” She basked over the box a few moments, thanked him with a kiss and sat back down. “I love it. I’ll treasure it forever.”

“I know.”

“Are you staying?”

“Where?” Elliott asked.

“For the performance in an hour.”

“I’ll be back. There are some things we have to do. How are you holding up?” Elliott grabbed her hand.

“I’m doing.”

“Have you spoken to Frank?”

Ellen chuckled. “I rarely speak to Frank since he became president.”

“So this has to add to that hurt.”

“Huh?” Ellen’s eyes widened. “Oh, are you talking about his bastard child?”

“Yes.”

She waved out her hand. “It’s Johnny.”

“Excuse me?”

“Roy misunderstood him. It was Johnny he wanted to keep a secret.”

Elliott produced a shocked look.

“Does this mean I can’t have the box?”

He laughed. “Of course you can Ellen. It’s my gift.”

“And it means so much. Today is so hectic. First the Frank thing had me running about, then Danny calling every two minutes about the television to make sure it works, and all this in the middle of my Joe Day.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what is a Joe Day?”

“The residents want to put on a tribute to Joe. Oh, wait until you see. They wrote it themselves, have costumes, and boy have they been rehearsing. I haven’t seen the rehearsals, they want it to impact me.”

“The … residents of Containment are putting on a tribute to Joe.”

“They loved him.” Ellen said.

“This should be very interesting.”

“Oh, I’m …” Ellen’s phone rang. “Hold on.” She reached for her phone. “Hello?” She smiled at Elliott. “Danny … Danny I’m busy right now. I have the big show happening and …fine. Hold on.” She placed the phone on her lap, then gave the shush finger to Elliott. She bobbed her head a few moments and lifted the phone. “Back. It works. I saw you. Good. Eight PM, I’ll let Jess know to turn it on for the residents. Bye.”

“What was that all about?”

“Oh, Danny. He wanted to know if I was picking up the signal and to turn on the TV to see if I see him.”

“But … but you lied.”

“I’m busy Elliott, I’m visiting you and every second is important. Besides,” She waved out her hand. “He’ll never know.”

******

Danny hung up the phone and with a push of his feet rolled his chair over to be in front of the monitors. “Scott, you’re gonna have to go to Containment and make sure their television is working.”

“Didn’t you just call Ellen?” Scott asked.

“Yep, she said she saw me on the test signal.”

“Ah,” Scott nodded. “She said ‘You’ not words.”

“Exactly.”

They sat in the director’s portion of Hoi Studios, a slight breeze whizzed through from the open door. It tended to get stuffy.

“Check monitor one,” Danny said. “Hit that camera.” He pointed, and then turned his attention to his left. “We’re gonna make history tonight by broadcasting the community meeting without the meeting.”

“What about question and answers?”

“Viewer call in dude, viewer call in.” Danny clicked the computer. “Now ...” he felt a tap to his shoulder. “Yeah.” He looked at Scott. “What’s up?’

“Not much, what’s up with you?”

Danny snickered and returned to what he was doing. Another tap to his shoulder, he turned again to Scott.

Scott looked at him. “Did you want something?”

“No, you … you …” Danny paused. The tap. He got it. “No, yeah, I need you to go to Containment stat. I mean, Joe Day is about to start and it will be a mad house.”

“Got it. I’ll go.” Scott stood up. “Need anything while I’m out.”

“Latte.”

“You got it.”

Scott rolled out his chair and stood. After grabbing his smokes, he left the office.

The door closed.

“It gets hot in here, I have to fix the air conditioning,” Danny said. “You may want to lock it though.”

The lock latched and Joe removed his hood.

Danny blinked. “That is so freaky. No wonder Dan is passing out.”

“Floating head. About as freaky as a floating dummy.”

“Huh?”

“I was stuck in Frank’s office, I picked up his dummy.”

Danny laughed. “He walked in. What did he say?”

“Said fuckin spirits and went about his business. He won’t think anything of it.”

“Probably not. So, what’s up?”

“Can you get a hold of Robbie for me? I need to speak to him.”

“Sure. Wanna meet here, it’s pretty private.”

“Yeah, after the Joe Day I don’t want to miss it.”

“Should be entertaining,” Danny snickered. “You want to talk to Robbie about the meeting today.”

“Yeah, actually, I do,” Joe said. “And something that wasn’t brought up, that will eventually be brought up and Robbie needs to work on a plan.”

“What’s that?”

“He swept it under the carpet and it will be noticeable.”

“Your death?” Danny asked.

Joe nodded. “Yep. My murder. He didn’t bring it up at the meeting, people are gonna want to know what’s going on.”

“We’re having the community meeting tonight.”

“Christ.”

“Ah, no.” Danny held up a finger. “It’s being broadcast. To talk, they have to call in.”

“Danny that’s a goddamn good idea.”

“Thanks, Joe. Maybe Robbie can address the community about it, so they know he’s still working on it.”

“Good.”

“But to be honest Joe,” Danny said. “Everyone trusts Robbie. No one is going to question him in this at all.”

“You don’t think?” Joe asked.

Danny smiled. “Positive.”

*****

“Robbie, do you have a second?” Hal asked.

Robbie was in the library, fixing the last drawer on the left of the Dewey decimal system. “Yeah, I just saw you.” Robbie grinned.

“From Security to Mechanics?” Hal said. “Why is that?”

“What do you mean?’

“I mean you’re head of Security, why are you fixing things.”

“Danny is working on the broadcasting thing.” Robbie opened and closed the drawer a few times. “Done. And …” He lifted his tool box. “Henry is loading the warehouse from that run so I help out.”

“Doesn’t leave you much time.”

“For?”

“Security.”

“Nah, I’m good. Let’s go outside before we get yelled at.” Robbie walked across the library to the door. He opened it. “What’s up?”

“That’s what I wanted to ask you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we had that meeting today and nothing was mentioned about Dad’s investigation.”

“I hit a wall.”

“No leads on the prints?”

“Hal, I ran a ton of prints. No matches. I’m sticking firmly that it was someone from the future that came through and they went back.”

“Hmm.”

“What?”

“Have you ran prints on all my men?”

“Do you really think it was one of your men?”

“No.” Hal shook his head. “Can I see what you have?”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why? Just curious.”

“Well, it feels like you’re double checking me.” Robbie said.

“Why are you getting defensive?”

“I’m not getting defensive.”

“You are. You were consumed and head strong about the explosion now nothing.”

“It’s not nothing, Hal, I hit a brick wall.”

“Then let me take a look.”

“Fine I will.”

“When?”

“Hal.”

“What?”

“I’ll let you see it, but right now, I have more important things to do. Excuse me.” Robbie brushed by him and walked off.

Hal stood alone. He spoke to himself. “More important things to do than our father’s murder.” He continued to watch Robbie. “What’s going on with you little brother?”

****

Before the plague, before it all, they were the envy of every couple they knew. George and Margaret Hadley were the perfect couple. They not only did everything together, but they loved each other. No, were still in love.

She wasn’t supposed to die in the plague that was why George used the time machine to go back, to put her in deep freeze and give her the antidote when Dean created it.

George was positive all would be fine. What he didn’t expect was for Margaret to hate him so much.

She put it together. Why would he freeze her if he didn’t know the world was coming to an end?

So when she woke from a cryogenic freeze she was less than congenial and escaped … to Beginnings.

The enemy.

Now that wasn’t the case.

Beginnings wasn’t the enemy anymore. But George was still target number one.

Margaret hated him, or so she acted it. George knew better.

He had a class to teach and a few moments to spare. Margaret was in Bowmen. How perfect. That was where George taught his class.

He heard she was at the church cleaning the pews.

To the mass public, Margaret Hadley cleaning pews was unheard of in the old world. But George knew Margaret. He knew the Margaret before she was first lady. The same girl that taught school, that lived in a trailer home and shopped at discount stores and thrift clothing places.

That Margaret, the humble Margaret would see no shame in a hard day’s work.

Seeing her carry a bucket didn’t surprise him. Seeing her with Peter did.

No one told him.

No one.

He knew he had frozen his son Peter. But George was told, Peter like the field workers in Beginnings was ‘special’ that he lost comprehension and wouldn’t even be able to use the bathroom. No one told George that Peter was alive and functioning, let alone in Beginnings.

Yet, there was Peter, George’s oldest son, wiping down pews.

“Oh my God,” George wisped out.

Margaret turned around. Well this is the right place to make that statement.”

“No one told me.”

“No one told you what? That I would be wiping down pews.”

“No, that Peter … Peter …” George walked up to Peter. “Son?”

Peter turned around. He had a lost look in his eyes as he stared down to George. The corner of his mouth raised and he spoke slowly. “Dad.”

George chuckled. “Oh my God.”

“You didn’t know?” Margaret said with cynicism.

“No. I didn’t.”

She tossed the rag into the bucket. “Well, what do you think happened to him? You cryogenically froze him.”

“I was told he didn’t make it. I assumed he died.”

“Well, thank God for the compassionate man that took him along.”

“How is he?”

Peter murmured out. “Fine. How… are…you?”

“I’m good.”

“Slow.” Margaret said. “Very slow. Like a six year old. But we’re making progress. What are you doing here?”

“Seeing you.”

“Well, we’re on our way out.” She lifted the bucket. “Come on Peter.” She motioned her head and began down the aisle.


Page 13

“Margaret. Things have changed. People changed. Circumstance …”

Margaret stopped. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on. Forty years together, from teens on. You know I love you. I always do and will. Let’s try to make this work.”

“Lonely George?” She asked.

“A little and I’m missing you.”

“Well, why don’t you ask your girlfriend Ellen, I’m sure she’ll cure your loneliness?” With attitude, and bucket splashing, Margaret stormed from the church.

George chuckled. “She still loves me and needs time, I just need to push things.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, dialing Ellen.

****

The fax took forever to go through. He called Bertha three times; finally Frank scanned it and emailed it. He didn’t know what was going on with the phones, but he wasn’t waiting any longer.

He mind was preoccupied and when he stepped out of the meeting portion of the office he froze.

He knew for a fact that he didn’t put Bob on his desk.

“Fuckin spirits.” Frank shook his head. “What am I gonna do about you?” he lifted the dummy. Bob looked different. He didn’t look as scary as he had ten minutes earlier.

From what Frank had learned about demons and spirits they didn’t make their presence known constantly. Bob was proof of that. But to make sure no one else go affected, Frank was going to keep Bob with him.

The demon would have to go through Frank first.

Bob tucked under his arm. Frank prepared to go to Containment. It was Joe Day and, he really hadn’t spent much time with Ellen. That was his afternoon.

He was a little surprised when his phone rang and saw it was the secret number.

“Hello?” Frank answered.

“Hey,” it was Dean. “What’s going on?”

“Just fighting a little demonic possession that’s all. What’s going on with you? Did you need something?”

“Yeah.” Dean’s voice sounded different, sad.

“What’s up?”

“Frank. Jason is not around. He left. I’m out here by myself.”

“You need someone to come out and keep you company?”

“Actually, Frank, I need you to come up with a solution.” Dean said.

“To?”

“Me? The clone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I miss Ellen, Frank. I miss my kids. Can you put on your thinking cap,” Dean requested. “I want to come home.”

****

Alexandra had waited all day. She knew that Miss Jenny was going to have show and tell just before they went on their field trip to Joe Day at Containment. Alex wanted to go to that, After all, it was about her Pap.

But she also really wanted to bring out her Show and tell.

Billy brought a cool ruler. Boring.

Greg Junior brought his really old doll. That was boring too. But Alex was a good student, and buddy. She applauded and acted interested. She tried her hardest to hide her impatience.

Finally.

“Alex,” Jenny called her. “Come up here. It’s your turn.”

She was excited. Billy wished her luck. Alex knew she was going to have the bestest ever show and tell.

No one in Beginnings had anything like it.

She toted her large book bag to the front of the class room.

“I want you to meet my friend. I dressed him up in Barbie’s clothes and I think he looks pretty.”

She put the book bag on Jenny’s desk.

“What do you have there, Sweetie?” Jenny asked.

Alex undid the buckle on the bag.

****

Jess Boyens had worked the night shift at Containment. Admittedly he cheated and watched some of the practices, that was until the residents caught on and kicked him out.

They wanted this show to be special.

Jess knew it was going to be special all right.

He stopped at Richie’s house to make sure he was going to be there.

Jess didn’t mind sacrificing sleep. He really wanted to catch the show that was exclusive and invitation only.

He looked forward to the show then spending the rest of the day quietly. It was going to be a good afternoon, a quiet one.

Just as he had those thoughts, the doors to the school burst open and Jenny led the pack of children. They all screamed. Hands waving in the air, blood curdling screams.

“Holy shit.” Jess grabbed for his radio. “Security, come in. Something is going on at the school.”

Jenny, out of breath, rushed the children back. “Stay clear. Stay clear. Jess!” She rushed to him, “Alex is still in there. She wouldn’t leave. She is there. Help her.”

Jess rushed toward the school, if Alexandra was there. If she was in danger he had to help her. He paused. “What’s going on in there, Jenny?”

“Killer Baby.”

“Fuck.” Jess grabbed his radio before embarking in the school. “Security, send Frank.”

What Jess didn’t know was Frank was right there. He heard Jess call and rushed to the school just in time to hear his name over the radio.

With a ‘Hold this, watch out he’s possessed’ Frank gave Bob the dummy to Jenny and caught up to Jess.

“That was fast,” Jess said, reaching for the door.

“What’s the situation?’

“Killer Baby and Alex.”

“Fuck.” Frank whipped out his revolver and without hesitation, burst in the door. He really didn’t fear the Killer Baby, or rather toddler for himself, he was worried about Alexandra.

Jess was right behind him.

As soon as Frank emerged into the school, he saw Alex sitting on top of the desk. She was all right. He breathed out a sigh in relief. “Stay back, Jess.” He whispered. “Alex, honey, don’t move.”

“Why?” she asked.

“There’s a …” Frank looked to Jess. “Did they say Killer Baby or Killer Toddler?”

“Baby.”

“Haven’t seen a baby in a while must be one of the new ones.” He aimed his voice back to Alex. “Honey there’s a Killer Baby in here somewhere. Do you know where?”

“No. That’s what Miss Jenny said, too. But I didn’t see him. She screamed when I brought out my show and tell. See.” She held the Killer Fetus up.

“What the hell is that?” Jess asked.

“My missing fetus. Thank God.” Frank put his gun away. “It’s safe Jess. It’s not dangerous.” Frank walked to Alexandra. “Alex, where did you find him?”

“He was on the dining room table eating my new Barbie.”

“I knew I left him at the house.”

Quickly Jess looked at Frank. “You left a Killer Fetus at the house.”

“He’s a nibbler. Harmless.”

Alex showed Frank and Jess. “Doesn’t he look pretty?”

“Yeah.” Frank took Harry. “But Alex, he can be dangerous to tiny fingers.”

“No, no, I just flick him like …” She reached up and flicked the fetus. “That. Can I keep him?”

“No, a pet is a big responsibility. Even I have trouble keeping track of them.”

“What are you going to do with him?”

“I’m gonna give him to your … to your …” Frank pouted in the thought of Dean. The real Dean. “I’m gonna give him back to your dad when he comes home. He was working with him.”

“My Dad isn’t going to kill him, is he?”

Frank bobbed his head. “He might.”

“Frank!” Jess scolded. “That’s wrong.”

“What? It’s the truth. Shit.”

“What?”

“I left Jenny with my possessed dummy.” Frank took a step, stopped, kissed Alex, and then started to leave again. He made it a few steps, stopped again, and darted back to Jess.

“You aren’t going to kiss me now are you?” Jess asked.

“Man …” Frank shook his head. “I’m every gay man’s desire. No, hold him.” He gave Harry to Jess.

Jess peeped a shriek. “What am I supposed to do with him?’

“Watch him until I get back. Don’t put your fingers near his mouth and … don’t give him to her.” Frank instructed then headed to the door.

Jess held the fetus outward. It squirmed in his hand and hissed as if he didn’t like Jess. “God, I have to watch you?”

“Want me to hold him?” Alexandra asked. “He loves me.”

After a quick peek to the door, Jess nodded. “Yeah.” He handed Harry over. “Just don’t tell Frank.”

 

Frank emerged from the school and Jenny gasped.

“Frank.” She said sobbing. “Please don’t tell me.”

“Everything’s fine.”

She sighed out. “Thank God. I envisioned limbs. Blood. You name it.”

“You’ll have that. But fortunately the fetus doesn’t eat flesh entirely yet. It’s under control and secure, you can take the kids back.” Frank’s eyes shifted down to Bob still in her arms. “Thanks for watching him.”

“Oh, sure, no problem.” Jenny handed him back.

“He didn’t bite you did he?”

“What?”

“Bite you. See he has this …” Frank proceeded to open Bob’s mouth.

“No he didn’t bite.”

“Talk to you?”

“No. He didn’t talk to me either.”

“Well, that’s good. That’s a good sign. Thanks.” Frank, Bob in his hold walked toward the clinic.

Jenny stood watching him totally dumbfounded.

****

Frank really wanted to talk for Bob, but being slightly fearful that Bob would get upset since he could take for himself, Frank just carried him.

He found Andrea in her office and he knocked.

“Got a minute?” He asked.

Andrea looked at her watch. “Yes, then I have to head over to Containment for the residents Joe Day.”

“I’m going, too, so I’ll walk you.”

“Sounds wonderful. Have a seat.”

Frank shut the door and pulled up a seat. “Thanks.”

“I wanted to speak to you too.”

“You go first.”

“Well, mine is pretty disturbing.”

“So is mine.”

“Maybe we’re going to be talking about the same subject,” Andrea suggested.

“Who knows? Go ahead.”

Andrea opened her mouth.

“It might be.”

“It might be what?” she asked.

‘The same thing. I read some of your thoughts, after I got passed all the God thoughts you have. Go on.”

“Frank, I’m gonna cut straight to the chase.” She folded her hands on her desk. “There’s some horrible news in Beginnings about you.”

“Wow. Ok, what?”

Andrea lifted her hand. “It is very disturbing to me, so I’ll be gentle. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea …”

“Andrea, what?”

She heaved out a breath. “You have a bastard child.”

Frank stared.

“Frank?”

“Repeat that?”

“You have a bastard child.”

Frank laughed.

“What? What is so funny?”

“You. You act like you didn’t know.”

“I didn’t,” she said.

“Andrea, please, is there another name you want to call him.”

“By his first name.”

“Well,” Frank shrugged. “That’s better than bastard. Although, there have been things that he did that would make him a bastard in some people’s eyes.”

“What’s his first name Frank?”

“John.”

“Who is the heathen mother, because when I get my hands on her …?”

“She’s dead.”

Andrea sat back. “Dead. When?”

“When the plague hit.”

“Huh?” Andrea scratched her head.

“You asked who his mother was. Kelly is his mother. Man, what is up with all the women in this town not knowing her name.”

“John as in Johnny.”

“Yes.”

“Not him, your other child.”

“Joey?” Frank asked.

“Not him.”

“Brian.”

“Frank!” Andrea yelled. “You told Dean that you didn’t want anyone to know about your child that was in the clinic.”

“Yeah. Johnny. He was here.”

“Johnny was here?” Andrea asked.

“I wanted him cleared to fly. Not fly with his arms, but fly jets.”

“You mean you don’t have another child to someone else other than Ellen?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“The answer is no. Just Kelly. That’s it.”

“Oh. What a relief. I was going to be upset with you plowing another field.” Andrea rested her hand on her chest.

“Andrea, I don’t farm. I tried.”

“Yes. So, what did you need to discuss with me.”

“Well, you’re pretty religious, right?”

“I like to believe so.”

“So am I once and a while, so I figured you’d be the best one.”

“Go on.”

“How do you cure possession?” Frank asked.


Page 14

“Well, you’d need to find a priest.”

“Like Father O-Brian?”

“Yes.”

“Will it matter if he’s drunk?” Frank asked.

“It might. He’ll need to exorcize whoever is possessed.”

“Exercise, like jumping jacks?”

“Frank …”

“Cause I can take him when I do PT.”

“No. No.” She waved out her hand. “Exorcize. It’s a ritual. Who … who is possessed?”

“Bob’s possessed”

“Bob? Bob from the future?”

“No, Bob.” Frank lifted the dummy. “Don’t be scared.”

“Sweet Jesus, Frank. Are you telling me that doll is possessed?”

“Yes, like Chucky.”

“What is possessing him?”

“Satan, demon, my Dad.” Frank stared at her.

“You think Joe is in that doll.”

“He might be.”

“Why do you say that?” questioned Andrea.

“Because one, he moved on his own. I saw it. Two he thought like my dad, and three when I poked him he said ow, like my dad.”

“Sweet Jesus.”

“Could be him too.”

Andrea covered her hand. “We need to find out.”

“He’s been quiet.”

“Maybe Joe left him.”

“And went into someone else,” Frank said. “You know as well as I do his spirit has been bopping along Beginnings.”

“Don’t I know it?” She sat back. “Well, I’ll keep an eye out and ask him the next time I feel his spirit.”

“I appreciate it.”

The phone rang.

“Dr. Winters,” Andrea answered.

“I’ll let you go,” Frank whispered.

Andrea saw Frank stand to leave. She snapped her finger for him to wait. “We’ll be right out.” She hung up.

“What’s up?”

Andrea stood and walked around the desk. “Ellen called said there’s a problem with the show. She asked us to step outside.”

Frank grabbed Bob and led the way from Andrea’s office, down the hall. They didn’t even need to leave the clinic to see the problem. A line of people formed from Containment.

The moment they stepped outsider, Ellen raced over. “They all want to see Joe Day,” she said.

“Well, do you blame them?” Andrea said. “This is a talked about production.”

“What should I do?” Ellen asked. “Any suggestions. I don’t want to turn anyone away.”

“Like God, you won’t. Perfect solution,” Andrea said. “We’ll go to the church. Should hold everyone.”

“Thanks, Andrea.” Ellen smiled and ran back to the line.

“And …” Andrea faced Frank. “This will help you too.”

“How so?”

“If Bob is demonically possessed he’ll react in church. The Devil hates the Lord’s house.”

“Yeah, but Andrea? So did my dad.”

At that, even though slightly offended, Andrea laughed.

****

Bob didn’t react, not at all and that made Frank happy. Even when he doused him with Holy Water, Bob remained in control.

The Beginnings church was packed.

There wasn’t a seat available and there individuals standing in the back. In fact, it was more packed than on Christmas.

Shops were closed, it was the talk of town.

Hal was grateful that Frank saved him a seat. After viewing the show, he didn’t know if he’d still be grateful.

But then again, it was about his father.

Ben from Fabrics was the MC.

“Thank you, thank you for coming out tonight. Wow. I didn’t expect this,” Ben said. “Sorry for the delay, but as you well know we had to relocate the karaoke system. Cookies and punch are located in the church vestibule and for the Slagel family we have alcohol.”

Hal leaned to Frank. “Perhaps I should get some alcohol now.” He smiled that smug Hal smile and crossed his legs.

Ben continued, “And without further ado. I give you Joe Day.”

He walked over to the system and started music.

The song, New York New York, by Sinatra started to play. The karaoke version that was.

Ellen perked up. “Joe loved Frank Sinatra.”

Andrea squeezed her hand. “I have chills.”

Like a Broadway show, eight Containment residents entered the stage in a chorus line manner. Four from each side of the altar. All wearing brown pants and a white button down shirt.

“Good god.” Hal whispered.

Then they began to sing.

“Start spreading the news. We here all the way. We want to be a part of it, Joe Day, Joe Day. These white button shirts. Are cool and not gay. Tonight we’ll be boozing it, Joe Day Joe Day.”

A resident stepped forward. “I want to wake up a Slagel that would be sweet!”

Another resident, “To have Frank at my side. Robbie and Jim.

“Andrea as a wife.”

Ben sang flamboyantly. “And Hal at my feet.”

Robbie and Frank burst out laughing.

They sang a second verse and kicked into a dance that consisted of pulling up the pants by the belt, shaking the head, and rubbing the temples.

They called it the Joe mannerism tango.

There were a few comical lines, interactions between Joes, but the grand finale was the show stopper.

Arnold, stepped forward for his spotlight moment.

Andrea gasped out, her typical, “Sweet Jesus, he looks like Joe.”

He paced about the stage, hands in pockets, did a brief monologue, and broke into a Sinatra’s My Life, with the words switched to ‘Oh Christ’, a song Ben wrote about Joe and Frank’s fights, and he finished off with an amazing My Way, where the entire cast joined on stage.

A standing ovation ensued.

 

What the hell was going on? Hal wondered. Was the entire community of Beginnings just insane or what? Andrea was out of control. She asked for autographs from the residents. Ben was working a deal with Danny Hoi to make the show a regular occurrence. The residents? They were the insane people, did no one realize that? Then again, everyone in Beginnings was insane.

Andrea came to Hal for a huge embrace. “Wasn’t that the most touching thing?”

“Yes, touching.”

“I even saw George with tears in his eyes.”

“Wow,” Hal said sarcastically.

Frank asked. “What did you think?”

“I think … I think I’m glad I’m not you.”

“What do you mean?” Frank asked.

“I need a drink, big brother.” Hal swiped out his hand to Frank’s arm and walked out of the church.

Frank turned to Andrea. “What did he mean he’s glad he’s not me?”

“It was an alcoholic dig, sweetie.”

“That’s fucked up.” Frank, hands on hips nodded.

“Yes, but you have other things to worry about.” Andrea paused. “Bob.”

CHAPTER TEN

The community telecast meeting would have been perfect, but Frank needed to work out the details of what he was going to do. Once he figured it out, he would use the telecast system to make the announcement. He had to put the Bob possession aside, and for that he locked him in a metal file cabinet. He figured even Satan would have a hard time getting out of there.

He had some thinking to do.

He didn’t think about it. Really, perhaps he was too busy. Truth was, Frank was too busy with his job to think about anything else, and he promised himself he would start.

What prompted the phone call from Dean? Did he read something, hear something, probably not? Dean just missed those he loved and Frank didn’t blame him. He remembered when he was captured by the Society and was gone a month. He knew how much he missed his family. Why would Dean be any different?

Dean wanted to come home.

He wanted to leave the little house and come back to Beginnings. But there was a problem. Roy.

Roy had been living in Beginnings as the new and revitalized Dean. People liked Roy, unlike Dean.

But Dean’s life was Dean’s life. Not Roy’s.

Therein lay the problem.

Roy couldn’t go back, even with a working time machine, he couldn’t go back. Frank needed him as a navigator in the Great War. Not that Roy knew a lot, but he knew enough to let Frank know that they changed the course.

So how to have Dean and Roy coincide was top on Frank’s mind.

Not only that, how to explain to the community. Would Frank be honest? In doing that, Frank would have to tell the community that Roy had something to do with his father’s death. Even though Roy claimed he played no part.

The community wouldn’t buy that.

Frank needed Roy and Frank wanted his best friend back. And, the community needed Roy’s mind.

He had to come up with something. Something brilliant, something buyable, something that would make everyone happy.

Frank was confident he could do that.

****

“Hal, go away.” That was what Robbie wanted to say when Hal followed him toward Danny’s special secret office at Danny Broadcasting. But Robbie didn’t, he smiled politely.

“Anyhow, I thought I was going to have an aneurism,” Hal said. “When the one resident sang his song twice …”

“Hal?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you have a town to run?”

“Excuse me?” Hal cocked back. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“No, no. I have things to do.”

“I’ll join you.”

Robbie looked over his shoulder at the DBS building. He exhaled. “Ok.’ And started walking in the other direction.

“Whoa. Whoa. Wait.” Hal said. “I thought we were going to DBS?”

“We are, but I forgot to something.”

A few more steps, and Andrea came around the bend, she was walking briskly, and looked as if on a mission.

When she called out. “There you are.” Robbie sighed in relief. “Sweet!” he thought. “I’ll dump Hal on her.”

“Robbie. Hal.” Andrea caught her breath. “We have a slight family dilemma, and I wanted to make you aware.”

“What’s going on?” Hal asked with concern.

“Seems we need to come together and face a religious problem.”

“Well,” Robbie reached out and slapped Hal on the back. “This one is all yours.” Robbie started to leave.

“Not so fast.” Hal reached out and snatched him back.

“Actually,” Andrea said. “Not that I don’t think Robbie can handle it. But you are so spiritually strong and you may be able to help Frank and I make the determination.”

“Frank is involved?” Hal asked.

“He discovered the dilemma.”

Robbie saw it. Hal’s expression changed. If Frank discovered it, obviously it wasn’t anything normal.

“What…?” Hal cleared his throat. “Is it?”

“Bob,” Andrea said.

“Bob the dummy?” Hal questioned.

“Yes.”

“I see.” Hal swiped his hand over his mouth. “Would this be his new found addiction to Bob and his inability to determine in the inanimate nature of Bob?”

“No. More so with Bob’s possession.”

“Bob … Bob …” Hal stuttered.

“Bob.” Robbie interjected.

“I know.” Hal snapped. “Bob’s possession. As that you mean Frank owning him.”

“Oh, no.” Andrea waved out her hand? “Sweet Jesus, I wish it were that simple. No, Bob is possessed.”

“Just to be clear,” Robbie said. “Are we talking Linda Blair Exorcist possessed?”

Andrea shrugged. “It’s either a demon or Joe, we don’t know yet.”

Another chuckle from Robbie. “You don’t know the difference.”

“We don’t think it’s a demon because we took him to the church.”

“Andrea,” Hal spoke reasonable. “Bob is not possessed.”

“How can you be so sure?” Andrea asked.

“Because there is no such thing as demonic possession.”

“Hal,” Robbie added. “She said she couldn’t determine if it was a demon or Dad.”

“I don’t care,” Hal said dragged out. “There’s no such thing as demonic possession or fatherly possession. Frank has dragged you into his delusion.”

“He has not.” Andrea was defensive. “I witnessed it.

“You witnessed it?” Hal asked.

“Yes, with the power of the Holy Spirit I felt it.” Andrea said with a raised hand.

“Oh my God,” Hal closed his eyes.

“If it helps,” Robbie said. “I believe in demonic possession and father possession.”

“Thank you sweetheart.” Andrea pinched his cheek.

“You know,” Robbie swiped a finger through the air. “You said you couldn’t make the determination. Have you thought about a séance?”

“Oh, should we?”

“No!” Hal barked. “No. This is utterly ridiculous. Andrea, the dummy is not possessed, and by dummy I mean Frank and or Bob.”

“Well.” Andrea folded her arms in offence. “I know which son I can go to for support and which one I can’t.” She widened her eyes at Hal, and after one more huff, spun on her heels and stormed off.

“Good Lord.”

Robbie twitched his head toward a walking Andrea.

“What?” Hal asked.

“Go after her.”

“No!”

“Hal, she’s our mom. You made her mad. What kind of son do you want her to think you are?”

“Fine. Fine.” Hal pointed at Robbie. “I’ll handle this. And you encouraged her.” He straightened himself, mumbled ‘Demonic possession’ and chased after Andrea.

****

Joe was laughing, loudly too and that worried Robbie. He heard it the second he opened the door.

“Dad. Shh.” Robbie placed his finger to his lips as he closed the door and locked.

“Eh, we’re fine,” Joe said and caught that after laughter breath.

Danny was sitting in a chair while Joe leaned against the desk attached to the wall. “We’re laughing about Joe Day.”

“Oh, my God,” Robbie snickered. “Everyone was so serious. They asked if the Starters could learn that version of My Way.”

“I was loved.” Joe smiled. “Even if it is by the mental patients.”

“Speaking of mental patients,” Robbie said. “Have you heard the latest? For some odd reason Frank and Andrea are convinced Bob the Dummy is possessed. By the Devil or you.”

Both Danny and Joe looked at each other.

“Ah,” Robbie nodded. “I have a feeling you guys know why?”

After another look at Danny, hands folded and draped on the side of his leg, Joe replied. “It’s my fault. He walked in while I was holding the dummy in the invisible suit and when Frank poked the dummy I said ‘Ow’.”

Robbie laughed. He laughed hard. “So like you guys up for messing with Frank?”

“Nah,” Joe said “That’s not fair.”

“What did you have in mind?” Danny asked.

Robbie grinned. “Just a little dummy demonic possession.”

Joe shook his head. “No. No.” He smiled. “All right. What the hell.”

“Sweet. Danny we’ll need your techno aspect.”

“You got it. It’ll have to be either right after this meeting or tomorrow. Tonight I have the community broadcast and I’m announcing a new competition.”

“Cool.” Robbie nodded. “What is it?”

“I stole it from an idea in the old world. I’ll be posting the contestants for … Beginnings Most Smartest Hero.”

“Christ,” Joe chuckled. “And you expect Frank in the running?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“This is great!” Robbie chimed. “Am I in it?”

“Yep.”

“I’m not gonna win,” Robbie said. “But if Hal and Frank compete it’ll be good.”

“Oh, I am on it.”

Joe couldn’t help but shake his head. “Christ Almighty, Frank in a smart contest? Hero yes, smart … smart.” He snapped a view at Robbie. “Oh my God, I just remembered. Do you?”

“I forgot about that.” Robbie said,

Danny snapped his fingers. “Guys? I’m here. I’m not a Slagel. What?”

“Frank in a smart guy contest.”

Joe reflected back.

 

How Frank got to that point, Joe didn’t know. Frank was a good kid. Naive would have been a gentle term to describe his misunderstanding of situations. Dumb was harsh, but more truthful.

So when Frank came home one day from school and stated he was taking the test for the Smart Guy High game show, the best Joe could do was be supportive. That and try not to pay attention when he studied. It was unnerving.

Frank studied, and Joe really didn’t put into stock at all that Frank would get in.

When Frank announced he was going to be on the show, Joe was convinced he was no less than a plant for comical relief.

Joe’s girlfriend at the time, Emmie, showed how upset she was at Joe over his lack of confidence in Frank.

“You never know, he may win,” Emmie said.

“Yeah, right sure.”

“Joe!”

But Joe was proud. Frank got ready early and the car for the show picked him up. All Joe had to do was pack his boys and head to the television studio where he would get a first or second row seat to watch the game show.

That was it, Joe knew. That was the start of Frank’s game show obsession.

Frank auditioned and was on more game shows than any other person he knew. For some reason, the producers of game shows loved Frank. Maybe it was his gawky look, his hard headedness. Perhaps his goofy personality and enthusiasm. It certainly wasn’t smarts.

He was on a show called ‘Press Your Luck’, where he had to hit a button, collect prizes and try not to let the light stop on the Whammy. If it stopped on the Whammy, you lost all prizes earned. Frank was fast on the button. His hand-eye coordination was second to none. But for some reason couldn’t comprehend that he wasn’t supposed to stop on the whammy.

While the other contestants, during their turn chanted, ‘No whammy, no whammy stop.” And would cheer when landing on a cash prize or TV. Frank cheered, “Go whammy, Go whammy. Stop.” And screamed a big yes when it stopped on the whammy.

The Price is Right was entertaining, that was the most Frank ever won. He was one of the first four called down.

And every single time he was bidding on his opening bid, Frank bid one dollar.

“We’re bidding on this wonderful set of Exercise bikes,” The announcer said.

“Joyce what’s your bid?” The host asked.

“One thousand.”

“Bill.”

“Twelve hundred.”

“Frank?”

“One Dollar, Jim.” Frank said.

“Frank … usually it’s customary to bid a dollar when you’re the last person.”

“I’m good with the bid, Jim. I have a strategy.”

Jim the host went to the last person. “Scott?’

Scott was snide. “Two dollars.”

“You suck.” Frank told him.

Eventually Frank was in prime position and his one dollar bet paid off. He won an entertainment center, which spawned an on stage debate on how he was going to get it and ship it home from California.

He ended up selling it for half it’s worth to a man on base.

When it came time to spin the wheel, Frank spun it so hard it was the longest recorded wait on a spin.

He made it to the final round, but somehow didn’t understand that the one dollar bid probably wasn’t going to cut it.

But the Smart Guy High. That preceded them all.

Joe led the pack. Robbie, Hal, and Jimmy. Robbie was eleven, Hal had just celebrated his fourteenth birthday.

“Say, Dad,” Hal stated as they walked toward the building. “Do you think one day I’ll get on the Smart Guy contest like Frank?”

“I’m not so sure after this season and after Frank, they’ll have it anymore.”

“Why do you think that is, Huh Dad? Why?”

“Hal.”


Page 15

“What?”

“Quiet. You’re still punished for eavesdropping on people’s confessions.”

“But Dad.”

Joe kept walking.

“Dad, I was only trying to get inspired as a writer.”

Joe held tight to Robbie’s hand.

“Dad?” Jimmy called out. “I’ve been studying with Frank. I think he’ll do well.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“I certainly hope so. I hate to see him embarrass himself when he doesn’t do well. Then again, will he notice?”

“That was funny, that was funny that you said that,” Hal rambled. “This is so cool. Frank is gonna be famous, isn’t he Dad, huh?”

“Hal.”

“What.”

“Quiet.”

“Yes, Father, quiet, I’ll be quiet.”

They arrived at the front of the studio, and after spitting on his fingers and fixing Robbie’s hair, Joe gave the family name to the guard.

As expected they sat in the first row.

Joe had to admit he was a little nervous and excited. He wished Emmie was there, but she wanted to watch it on television to get the full effect.

His seat bounced some then Joe realized why, Robbie was kicking his legs.

“Enough,” Joe reached down and stopped him by placing his hand on his knees.

“Sorry, I’m nervous for Frank.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Then Robbie did it. With that boyish look he still carried, he peered up so innocently to Joe and smiled. “It doesn’t matter if he wins, huh Dad? It’s just really cool that he’s here. Huh?’

After a moment, Joe nodded and ran his hand over Robbie’s hair. “That’s right kiddo. That’s right.”

Joe sat up a bit more proud and waited patiently for the show. He was going to be proud of Frank no matter how good or bad he did. Even with that stupid bow tie he sported.

 

A reflective joy was across Joe’s face. He genuinely thought who needed a time machine when memories were so vivid.

“Did he win or did he lose?” Danny asked.

“Oh, he lost, He lost badly. Actually, he pulled a Cindy Brady and suffered from stage fright.”

“He got over that,” Danny chuckled.

“Yeah, he did. I was damn proud of him that day. Damn proud.” Joe sighed out. “Ok.” he clapped his hands together. “Let’s work on that possessed dummy plan.”

****

Ellen looked exhausted and Elliott understood that, the show was a success but Ellen had a lot of shuffling to do. He aided her in cleaning up the church. The residents offered to do so, but Ellen wanted to get them back in Containment and settled for the afternoon shift.

They walked together. Her and Elliott.

“Thank you for taking the time to have lunch.”

“Thank you for asking, I’m starving.”

“I hear they have croissants and salad at the café.”

“Isn’t that funny.”

“What is that?”

“Two years ago in Beginnings it was a bakery, now it’s a café.”

“They expanded.”

Ellen chuckled.

“So, did you hear?” Elliott walked with his hands behind his back. “The big night at Hoi-Hoi on the Range.”

“Yeah, the Hoot and Shoot.” Ellen said. “Sounds like a blast.”

“I was wondering if you don’t have any plans, if you would like to go with me?”

“I would love to but … but I have to give that option to Frank.”

“I understand.”

“I haven’t seen him more than an hour a night since he became president.”

“Well, then if he chooses not to go …”

Ellen shook her head.

“Ellen, I’m feeling dejected here.”

“Don’t be. George asked me to go with him.”

“George? George Hadley?”

“Yeah, he’s trying to get a rise out of Margaret.”

“Ah, he’s using you as the jealousy thing.”

“Yep. I’m sure I can see you there. Hopefully …Oh.” Ellen turned. “There’s Frank.” Ellen waved her hand. “Frank!”

Frank skidded to a stop, spun and ran to Ellen. “Hey, babe.”

“Hey. I was wondering if you wanted to go to the Hoi-Hoi on the Range tonight.”

“I would love to, but can’t. I have things to handle. You can go.”

“Thanks for permission.”

“There’s always Hal.” Frank pointed.

Ellen turned around to see Hal approaching.

“I gotta go, Ryder.” Frank nodded.

“What’s the rush, Frank?” Elliott asked. “Not an emergency I hope.”

“Big one.”

“Do you need assistance?” Elliott questioned.

“I might. Thanks.”

“Anything I can do to help.”

“You’re in good with that priest, it’s him I may need.”

“You … you need a priest. Last rites?” Elliott questioned.

“Demonic possession.”

Elliott and Ellen were still reeling in the aftermath of his words, trying to repeat them through their stunned mouths, but Frank was gone.

Hal approached. “Ah, a run in with Frank. By any chance did he mention the possession?”

Both Elliott and Ellen turned to face Hal.

Hal grinned. “By the look on your faces, I’ll say that was a yes.”

****

Robbie was alone.

He preferred it that way.

He wasn’t working alone, but he had to do this alone.

“I want to help you, Frank. Talk to me.”

Frank did.

Although Frank wasn’t as upset about things as Andrea, he even came across semi reasonable, thinking away the possibility of a possession.

Robbie was helping.

Actually, Robbie aided more than Frank realized. The problem with the perimeter fence, the domestic dispute, all Robbie setups. He needed a half an hour.

He picked the lock on the file cabinet, and opened the drawer. “Hello, Bob.” He lifted the listless dummy and grabbed his radio. “Subject in my hold.”

“Bring him in,” Danny stated in return. “We don’t have much time.”

“Roger that.”

He tossed Bob in a bag, figuring if Frank returned and found an empty drawer it would only work in Robbie’s favor. But he hoped that wasn’t the case. The plan was too good, not to fall into place.

 

Frank didn’t deliberately not answer the phone when Dean called, he was just busy.

Busy with the fence that didn’t seem to be broken after all. The complaints of a Ben and Todd domestic dispute were grossly over exaggerated. Finally, he called back Dean.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Happy Thanksgiving.” Frank said.

“Frank,” Dean chuckled. “It’s not Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah, it is. Like Christopher Columbus, we’re gonna celebrate your homecoming today.”

Again, Dean laughed. “I don’t know what that means, but I’m gonna take it you came up with a solution.”

“Um, yeah, sort of.”

“Sort of?” Dean asked. “Frank, it’s my life. Here’s a solution. See ya’ Roy.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“What do you mean it’s not that easy?”

“I think this is jealousy driven, not that you don’t miss the kids,” Frank said. “But I think you’re jealous of Roy.”

“Bullshit.”

“Ok, just checking. But tonight, Dean, I promise a solution.”

“I’ll hold you to it. I want to come home.”

Dean hung up and Frank was still speaking. He shrugged and placed his phone away.

He just wanted to finish his paperwork, make sure everyone had the reports in and go home before he had to go to Dean’s.

He stepped inside and took a whiff of the newness of the office. The smell of paint was fresh.

He placed himself behind the desk and exhaled, pulling forward his reports.

“Frank.”

“Come in.” Frank continued to work.

“Frank.”

“Yeah.”

“Let me out.”

Eyes still focused on the papers, Frank replied, “You just came in.”

“Out of the drawer you moron.”

Frank looked up. No one was in the room. “Hello.”

“Hello.”

“Where are you?” Frank stood and started looking around. Under the desk, the bathroom, the next room.

“Where did you put me?”

“I don’t know.”

“In the drawer you idiot! Let me out.”

“Fuck.” Frank walked to the file cabinet. “In there.”

“Yeah.”

“Bob?”

“In a way.”

“You sound like my dad.”

“That’s because I am.”

“Bob’s my father?” Frank asked.

“No, goddamn it. I’m your father stuck in this goddamn doll. Robbie opened a door.”

Frank looked at the door.

“Another world door, Frank and now I’m stuck.”

“Where were you before?”

“What do you mean?”

“Before the doll?”

Silence.

“Bob?”

“Take me out of the goddamn drawer, Frank.”

Frank immediately unlocked the drawer. He cautiously lifted the doll.

“Thank you.”

“Fuck me.”

“It was hot in there.”

“Fuck. Where were you before?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Before you went in the doll.”

“Same place I’m going now.” Joe said. “To another place in Beginnings. I’ll be back.”

“Bob?”

There was no answer. The dummy just stared with a lost look. “This is fucked up.”

Frank had work to do, and the doll possessed by his father or not, he couldn’t be disturbed, so he duct taped the mouth of Bob and put him back in the drawer.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

“Good evening, and welcome to DBS community update,” Danny spoke with a confident smile, turning toward the camera like a newscaster or anchorman. “I’m your host, Danny Hoi, spokesman of Beginnings Provinces.”

He had worked hard on DBS and it showed, the huge warehouse redesigned to be a television studio hosted Danny.

“A lot of you are probably wondering why we are now doing it this way. As you are aware, in the past, we have had community meetings, which sometimes get out of control. Today we welcome a new age of community notification. No longer will DBS be used just for entertainment, it will also be a news source. Starting today.”

The camera changed angle.

 

Behind the scene, Hal stood with Roy. “Why are we here again?” He asked Roy.

“We are guests,” He straightened his bowtie. “How do I look?”

“Like a nerd,” Hal stated. “I can figure out why you are here. But me? Why not my brother?”

“Perhaps there is something to deal with Bowman.”

“We’ll soon find out.” Hal returned to watching the monitor.

 

“Residents are screaming for our government to speak up and have a community meeting. It’s big news, as all of you know and it’s been putting a slight scare on our residents. The brain flu now nicknamed MOD for Modula Oblongata Dementia. Blake our reporter on the scene has this to say.”

The shot moved to a pre-recorded segment. Blake stood with a microphone. “As you know Danny, residents are panicked. Men, especially because estrogen seems to be the mighty sword in this one.”

Dan from Security was on camera. “It’s the scariest thing I ever experienced. I’ve been shot at, chased by Killer Babies, and seen Josephine take a leak behind the Social Hall. But this.”

Andrea was on screen next. “It’s not posing any major health issues. You can’t die from it. Not at this time.”

Cut to Jenny. “Hello, Beginnings, wake up and inform us.”

“As you can see, Danny, they want answers. Will we get them? Back to you.”

Danny smiled. “Thanks, Blake. Yes, they want answers. President Slagel has issued this public statement.”

The image showed Frank. “There is a virus in Beginnings. Don’t worry. I will handle it.”

Back to Danny, Danny looked at the camera. “Strong words from a strong man. Reassuring but... How exactly will he handle it, Resident brain man, Dean is here to tell us. Dean.” Danny shook his hand as Roy was positioned behind the news counter. “Welcome to the show.”

“Thank you, Danny.”

“What can you tell us about this virus?”

‘Well, Danny as you know it is male gender oriented. It is more annoying than anything else.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, so see things that are not there.” Roy shrugged. “Other than that you do not feel sick, although in some rare cases spontaneous headaches can occur. It’s not airborne or blood borne.”

“How does a male catch it?”

“It is not transmitted person to person. But through a certain plant that blooms for a week in April. Those who caught it have caught it by now. Although there is an incubation period that can last up to six weeks.”

“So some people can still suffer even if they aren’t symptomatic now. What is the medical community doing about this epidemic and, am I right, it is epidemic.”

“Epidemic means seven percent of a population must suffer. So, by those standards yes it is epidemic. We would say immunize but we can only fight the virus once it surfaces, so awareness. Stop by your local health facilities for symptoms to watch out for.”

“Thank you, Dean”

“You are welcome Danny Hoi.” Roy looked at the camera smiled and waved.

“In other community updates, Joe Day will be played at the Bowman Hoi-Town Palace Theater for the next two Friday nights. Containment heads, Ellen and Richie will have the residents that star in this throw down musical experience, escorted to the theater. They add that even though some show mental unbalance there is no harm in them performing an uncontrolled environment. There’ll be new selections in our shops as the warehouse cargo will be up for grabs, check with your local shops for details.”

Danny shuffled a paper. “No news yet on the pre-production of the movie adaptation of Beginnings best seller, Frank’s Day Out. There have been a lot of inquiries, right now, author Frank Slagel is working on that screenplay. And finally, what I believe an impacting news for Beginnings. DBS will be sponsoring a new reality game show. That’s right, a game show based on elimination. Each night until we get down to one winner. That winner will received 500 Danny Bucks and a dream scene, television with cable, surround sound system, and a movie player, complete with DVD copies of their favorite past Hoi Shows. The new reality show is based upon a pre-plague world show. It’s called Beginnings Most Smartest Hero. Each episode will feature our contestants battling skill and will to see who will be Beginnings Most Smartest Hero. It promises to be exciting with four preselected contestant in place. Those four will be the leaders of the provinces, Frank, Hal Slagel, Creed, and Will Biggles of Jordan Town. The other four will be chosen by you the residents. Ballots will be placed in the community centers like the library after four. Ballot by computer vote. Here to discuss this exciting new game show and the possibilities it holds is none other than contestant Hal Slagel. Hal, thanks for coming.” Danny turned his chair.

Hal was on the screen. He stared at Danny. A look of bewilderment on his face.

“Hal?”

“Brain virus, impending confrontation, my father’s open murder case, and not only do you discuss a movie adaptation of my brother’s book, you bring me on to discuss a game show.”

“Yes.”

“Good God, Danny, I thought I was coming by to talk about important issues.”

“You don’t think entertaining our residents is important?”

“Well, yes, of course, but Frank’s book …”

“Is a best seller. Speaking of which,” Danny said. “Give us the insight on how his screenplay is coming.”

“I haven’t a clue.”

“Wow. Ok.” Danny looked at the camera. “Secrecy. Now onward to the competition. How do you feel about this?”

“I just found out about it.”

“Ok, and you can’t formulate an opinion?” Danny asked. “I mean, what do you think?”

“I think it’s a great idea and look forward to the competition.”

“Any suggestions for our viewers who you think would be great contestants.”

“My brother Robbie. Elliott Ryder, the new and improved nerdy Dean.”

Closed mouth, Danny nodded. “True. Dean is smart but is he hero enough?”

“We can find out.”

“Rumor has it …”

“Rumor has it?” Hal asked. “I thought you just announced this.”

“Yeah, but things had to be in place. People have been talking about it. Rumor has it that Frank will take this competition.”

“Frank?” Hal laughed. “My brother Frank? Granted the man is a hero in sick twisted ways, but Beginnings Most Smartest Hero. Danny, Please. You said of Dean is he hero enough. Well, I say for Frank. He’s hero enough but is he smart enough?”

“And you would put that answer as ‘no’.”

“I’m quite sure my brother doesn’t even know who George Washington is. Frank speaks for himself. In fact, if there’s a way to call him and put it live, I’ll show you.”

“If he’s watching he’s going to be prepared.”

Smug, Hal shook his head. “He’s not watching. Trust me.”

“Ok, let’s test you, Hal.” Danny pulled the phone forward. “Let’s call Frank.” He dialed, it rang.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Frank, this is Danny Hoi. I’m calling you from the Community Talk show.”

“Is this the viewer call in segment?”

“No it’s …”

“Because if it is I’m not a viewer. I was, and once I saw myself, I went back to dinner.”

“Frank.” Danny interrupted. “Your brother is here and wants to talk to you.”

“He’s on the show?”

“Yes.”

“Is he a guest?”

“Yes he is.”

“On your show.”

“Yes, Frank.”

“Don’t you think he could have waited until he was finished with being on the show? Must be important.”

“Actually it has to do with the show. Here’s Hal.”

Hal took the phone, mouthed, ‘I told you so’’ and then spoke into the phone. “Hello, Frank.”

“Hey, Hal, what’s up?”

“You’re not watching the show?”

“No, I was.”

“Well, Danny introduced a new game show and that’s what I’m calling you about.”

“Excellent. Is this like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

“No, it’s more like a smart contest.”

“That was a smart contest.”

“Yes, it was …”

“Oh! Is this trivia.”

“You can say that.”

“I’m a vat of trivia. The brain is buzzing. Hal, thanks.”

“Why?” Hal asked.

“I’m your lifeline.”

“Hold on.” Hal covered the phone and spoke to Danny. “Do I need to go on?”

Danny nodded.

“Frank?”

“Yeah.”

“Ready for the question.”

“Yeah.” Frank cleared his throat. “Thinking cap on.”

“George Washington is the father of what?” Hal asked.

Silence.

“Frank?”

“Can you repeat the question?”

“George Washington …” Hal spoke slowly. “Is the father of what?”

“Oh!” Frank said with excitement. “I know this.”

“Please tell me the answer.”

“Hal, I can’t believe you don’t know this. George Washington is the father of Patsy and Billy Washington. They lived down the street from us in Gaithersburg.”

“No, Frank …”

“Yeah, don’t remember you had a huge crush on Patsy, she was like sixteen…”

“Frank …”

“And her brother wanted to beat you up, because he had a crush on you …”

“Ok, Frank that’s …”

“Her brother was gay but we didn’t know it because we really didn’t think about that gay thing back then and he thought you were gay because of your long hair and ...”

“Frank!”

“What!”

“Thanks for your help.”

“Was I right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Yes!”

Hal hung up the phone. “See what I mean? He didn’t know.”

“But was he?” Danny asked.

“Was he what?”

“Was George Washington the name of Patsy and Billy’s dad?”

“Yes, he was.”

“Then Frank wasn’t wrong.”

“Good God man…”

“No, you were specific. You tricked him. Had you asked, President George Washington is the father of what, Frank would have gotten in.

Hal tossed his hands in the air. “What can I say? You’re right. Frank’s a shoe in.”

“Let the competition begin.” Danny turned to the camera. “I want to thank our guests for stopping by. Tune in tomorrow night when we announce those who will be competing in Beginnings Most Smartest Hero contest. Hope to see you tonight at Hoi—Hoi on the Range. I’m Danny Hoi. Good night.”

****

“Why exactly are we having a special secret meeting?” Hal asked. “Why do I even live in Bowman? I’m in Beginnings all the time.”

Hal was ready to go back, but was pulled aside to meet with Frank and Robbie.

“Shut the fuck up Hal, it’s not that far of a drive,” Frank said. “We have a slight problem.”

“Please. Please. Please do not tell me this has to do with Bob.”

“No, I have him duct taped, that should hold him for a while.”

Robbie laughed. “That’s funny. Has he gotten that out of control?”

“Robbie.” Hal warned.

“Yeah,” Frank ignored Hal. “I’ll tell you about it later. Right now, I have to deal with something.”

Hal perked up. “Nothing to do with Bob. The Hero competition?”

“Nah, piece of cake on that. I’m walking away with the win.”

Hal laughed, that arrogant, silent laugh where only his mouth opened. “I’m sure.” He dusted his pant leg. “Now, big brother. What’s going on?”

“Dean.” Frank leaned against his desk. “I can’t blame him. He wants to come home.”

“To Beginnings?” Hal asked.

“Yes.”

“He can’t do that. Roy is here.”

“I know,” Frank said.

Robbie added. “We need Roy. He is a source of info to carefully watch and monitor so we don’t make the same mistakes and end up with the bad future. We’re on the road Frank to achieving that.”

“I know.”

“And,” Hal said. “People like Roy much better.”

“I know. But …” Frank held up his finger. “It’s Dean’s life. Dean’s kids. His lab, work, you name it. It isn’t Roy’s.”


Page 16

Hal sat back. “But Roy is enjoyable. Innocent. Not arrogant.”

“Hal,” Frank said sharp. “Come on. It’s Dean’s life.”

Robbie tilted his head. “We’re sorry, Frank. You’re right.”

“What do you need from us?” Hal asked.

“How can we do it.?” Hal asked. “Options.”

“Sending him back is not an option,” Robbie said. “I mean, there may not be a Roy in the future he can go back to being.”

Hal waved at Robbie. “How do you propose we send him back, anyhow?”

Nonchalantly, Robbie replied. “The HG Wells.”

“The HG Wells?” Hal questioned.

“Yeah, I mean, that was what made me say about there not being Roy in the future. When I went … went …” His eyes shifted.

“Time travel is outlawed.” Frank said.

“That’s redundant,” Hal stated. “If there’s no working time machine. Unless there is?”

“No.” Robbie shook his head.

“But you just said …” Hal pointed.

‘I lied.”

“You lied.”

“I lied.”

“He lied.” Frank repeated.

“Hmm.” Hal gave a smug look. “Ok, let’s assume there is no viable way to send him back. Can we have Roy live in Bowman?”

“We still have the same problem,” Frank said. “Two Dean’s.”

“What about the Society?” Robbie questioned. “Can we send him there?”

“To work with Lars?” Frank chuckled. “Roy or no Roy, the site of him will send Lars into his pick on Dean mode.”

Hal rubbed his chin. “The easiest solution is to try to live in a perfect world with both Roy and Dean.”

“But how?” Frank stated. “Short of it looks like we covered something. Which we did. How do we explain the existence of Roy? We don’t want to bring suspicion to him over Dad’s murder.”

“Obviously, Dean’s fingerprints weren’t on there,” Robbie stated. “So that means, neither were Roy’s. I think if we think about it, we may be able to come up with a plausible story.”

Frank snapped his finger. “What about stating the truth. That we suspected he was the clone, we hid Dean to bring him out because we thought for sure he was connected to Dad’s death. We announced he was cleared, I approached him, and he maybe said he was chasing the killer through time to stop him or her from killing Dad.”

Hal shrugged. “That may work.”

“We’re forgetting one thing,” Robbie interjected. “We’re trying to figure out how to ‘out’ Roy without problems so we can have both Roy and Dean. Right?”

Both Hal and Frank nodded.

“Well, are we stopping to consider the fact that, can Dean and Roy coexist?”

Frank chuckled. “Like two matters occupying the same space?’

“Frank.” Hal wisped out. “I am impressed at that.”

Frank pointed to his temple. “I remembered Jason talking about that.”

Robbie shook his head. “No, it would be a time machine thing. It’s a clone. I’m talking about two Deans. Can they live in the same community? They may cancel each other out.”

Hal nodded. ‘‘Roy doesn’t have Dean’s ego.”

“And Dean,” Robbie winked. “Doesn’t have Roy’s intelligence.”

“Ouch.” Hal winced.

“Plus, they never met. What happens? Instant friendship. Instant envy?” Robbie shrugged. “Roy wants Dean’s life. Dean will hate how smart Roy is. Can they live in the same province?”

Frank watched his brothers, and then clapped his hands together once. “Well, there’s one way to find out.” He stood up straight. “Thanks Gentlemen.”

Hal turned in his chair. “Where are you going?”

Frank opened the door. “Time for the two Deans to meet.”

****

They were almost there. Frank gave specific instruction that the only other person other than himself, Dean and Roy would be Jason.

“How do I look?” Roy sat up perfectly in the seat.

“Like you,” Frank said.

“Why are we going tonight?” Roy asked. “Dean is not going to try to kill me is he?”

“Nah, that would be killing himself and Dean’s not a suicidal person.”

“That is good.”

“Almost there.”

“What is the reason?”

“I’ll tell you when we get there.”

“Does Dean know the reason?”

“Yes. He is the reason.”

Roy showed excitement. “Oh! Oh! He wants to meet me.”

“Not exactly.”

Roy sulked.

“Not that he wouldn’t want to meet you. But that wasn’t what he asked for about this meeting.”

“It is an official meeting? Should I have brought sweets?”

“No, we’re good.” Frank pulled the truck in front of the house.

“Is this where we have been hiding Dean.”

“This is it?” Frank opened his door. “Ready?”

Roy nodded.

****

Dean had no idea that Frank wasn’t coming alone. All he knew was Frank said no one but Jason was to be there.

Jason parted the curtains. “He is here.”

“And I hope he has a solution.”

“If he doesn’t. I can help.”

“Thanks, Jason.”

“This should be interesting.” Jason released the curtain and turned to face Dean.

“Why?”

The doorbell rang.

Jason pointed.

Dean, curious, walked to the door and opened it.

“Hey, Dean.” Frank smiled.

“Glad you’re here, Frank. Come in.” Dean opened the door wider.

“Um …” Frank took a step, then stepped. “Someone I need you to finally meet.”

Dean didn’t have a reaction. In fact, he stood there pretty shocked, just staring at Roy. He had come to the house all dressed up. A crisp plaid shirt, bright bow tie and his kicking new cowboy boots.

“Hello Dr. Dean Hayes.” Roy extended his hand. “It is an honor to meet my genetic beginning.”

Dean’s eyes shifted from Roy to Frank.

Frank twitched his head with a smile, and Dean went back to staring at Roy.

****

Dean was fixing a salad in the kitchen, while Frank stood at the oven. “I thought it would be a good idea to have a talk over dinner. They had pizza at the Bowman Mess Hall.”

“Thanks for bringing the food. And …. him.” Dean went over and peeked out the kitchen door. Roy was sitting straight up at the table. “Frank he doesn’t even look like me.”

“Yeah, he does.”

“No, he doesn’t. How stupid can the people be to buy that is me?”

“They thought it was a new improved you.”

“That’s improved.” Dean laughed. “Oh my God, I can only imagine my reputation now.”

“It’s actually … people like you. You’re a people person now.”

“Well that will stop.” Dean said. “People will just think it was a phase I went through. Danny can say it was my chip.”

“Ok ... or … something else.”

“What?”

Frank hesitated before answering.

****

It was a stare down that Jason seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Rather Dean stared at Roy.

“Why? Frank?” Dean asked. “Would you think it is a good idea for us both to stay in Beginnings?”

Jason held up his hand. “If I may, Frank. Dean why wouldn’t you? You are the most intelligent man in Beginnings.” He shifted his eyes to Roy. “That was funny.”

“Well, yes, I am the most intelligent man in Beginnings.”

“See.” Dean pointed. “Put him in Bowman.”

Roy shook his head. “I live Beginnings.”

“But I’m going to live in Beginnings. So you can’t.”

“Why?” Roy asked. “We can be great friends.”

Dean chuckled. “How? You started all this.”

“No, I did not.” Roy defended. “I tried to make sure the future is good. Not dismal.”

“By making me out to be the serial mutilator.”

“It protected you,” Roy said. “When they thought you killed Joe.”

“You mean when they thought you killed Joe.”

“I look like you.” Roy smiled.

“Yeah, with a mullet.”

Roy looked at Frank. “What is a mullet?”

“It was that hair do you had before you cut it all off. Long in the back, short on sides.”

“Oh, I liked that.” Roy smiled. “It made me look like American Legend Icon Billy Ray Cyrus.”

“Please.” Dean scoffed. “And I can’t believe people buy that you are me.”

“I think that people will accept and buy,” Roy said. “Anything they like.”

“Are you saying people don’t like me?”

“They didn’t.”

Frank whistled. It was reminiscent of a Joe whistle. He waited for the silence. “There is no reason why the two of you cannot work and live within the same province. None. You both have assets you can share. Dean, Roy knows a lot of shit. But Roy, there is something Dean can do that you cannot.”

Roy gasped. “I beg your pardon.”

“Oh, yeah. Got that attitude, Pal?” Frank nodded. “Try doctoring.”

“I am wondering.”

“Until you have to put a knife in your hand or stitch someone. One of my security guys complained about the way you sutured them.”

“Was it wrong?” Roy asked.

“No, it was normal and wasn’t pretty. Dean does tiny stitches to make sure people don’t scar too much.”

“He must teach me.”

“And you teach him stuff.”

Dean waved his hand about. “Fine. Fine. But how do you explain two Deans.”

“I will,” Frank said. “Over DBS, tomorrow. I make the announcement. I state the semi truth.”

“So you’re gonna tell them we’ve been deceiving them.”

“No, I have been deceiving them.” Frank examined their expressions. “I’ll say it was all my idea for the good of the future.”

Dean stood up. “You’re gonna look like a bad guy, Frank.”

“Won’t be the first time. But tomorrow I announce, and unless I come up with a better idea on how to explain it. That will be it.”

“I hope you come up with a better idea.”

“I may.” Frank winked. “But pack tonight. Tomorrow you come home.”

“You know,” Dean said. “I still say if the future is fixed, let’s just send him back.”

“Dean.” Jason warned.

Dean walked to the dining room mantle and moved the big clock.

Another warning call from Jason. “Dean.”

Roy jumped to his feet. “My machine.”

“Mine.” Dean smiled. “We fixed it.”

“Robbie did not lie. It works?” Roy reached for it as Dean lifted it from the mantel.

“It works. And I think we should use to just zap you to the future.”

‘‘No.” Roy shook his head. “I am needed here and do not wish to return now.” He reached for the HG Wells.

Dean pulled back.

“Gentlemen.” Frank called out.

“Mine.” Roy snapped like a three year old.

“Not any more.” Dean pulled back.

Roy grabbed hold, and both Roy and Dean struggled over the box.

“Frank?” Jason said with caution. “Do something before they break it.”

At his loudest, Frank shouted. “Hey!”

It blasted through the room scaring both Roy and Dean and Roy let go. Dean wasn’t ready and the HG Wells flew up in the air, hit the mantle, and did a high air bounce toward the table.

Princess Leah popped out speaking super high and fast.

Frank, in an attempted to intercept, only grazed the side, slowing the speed, but the HG Wells dropped hard against the dining room table. It buzzed and shook, the side opened up and a green light appeared.

“Get down!” Jason warned when the first beam of green shot out.

They all ducked and the beam shot across the room, hit into the mirror, and the beam divided, reflecting three beams that shot clear out of the window into nothing.

Jason reached up and shut off the box.

Everyone slowly rose.

Dean ran his fingers through his hair. Jason looked at the HG Wells. “Doesn’t seem broke.”

“What the hell was that?” Frank asked.

Roy moved his index finger to his own lips. “Uh oh.”

“Uh oh?” Frank asked. “What is uh oh?”

“What happened Roy?” Dean asked.

“It’s theoretical.” Roy shrugged. “I didn’t think … let me see.” He took the box.

Hands on hips, Frank looked down to him. “Roy, you said uh oh. What’s up?”

“Ok, Dr. Godrichson, with the Regressionator. What was your fear about the traveler, and what were you working on when Hal, Robbie and Frank went to the future.”

“An auto return,” Jason stated.

“You actually were ahead of me. I had an auto return but it was more if the travelers separated. It never was tested.”

“Did we test it tonight, Roy?” Jason asked.

“Perhaps inadvertently.” Roy said softly as he sat with the HG Wells at the table. “Let me examine it.”


Page 17

Dean looked at Jason and Frank. “Was anyone watching what happened?”

“The side opened and a beam came out” Jason said. “It shot into the mirror.”

Frank added. “And went three ways out the window.”

“Oh boy.” Roy whispered.

All three men turned to him.

“Ok.” Roy peered up innocently. “The retractor beam was working.”

Frank folded his arms. “Retractor beam?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ll call it. I never thought it would be a beam.” Roy shrugged. “The machine is saying a bunch of data. I would have to decipher.”

“Can you give us anything?”

Roy nodded. “It shot into the future.”

Dean questioned. “When, as in how far.”

“Between 175 and 2000 years.”

“Holy shit!” Dean grabbed back his bangs. “Holy shit! You can’t tell?”

“I will. In time.” Roy stayed calm.

“Where into the future?” Frank asked.

“Several locations, one time. The mirror split it in three. So I’m trying to decipher the other locations it went to in the future, and three location it returned.”

“Returned?” Jason quizzed.

Roy nodded. “Yes, if it indeed worked, the beam returned.”

“Returned, as in grabbed a subject?” Jason tilted his head.

Roy nodded. “Maybe not. It is quite possible the beam shot through nothing.”

“Or a person?” Frank asked.

“Yes,” Roy stated.

“They aren’t here.” Frank said.

“No, I don’t know where the subject was beamed.” Roy exhaled.

Jason waved his hands about. “Ok. I’m confused. What exactly does this beam look like when it hits its destination? Does it grab, open door, what?”

Roy shrugged.

Jason continued, “Because, if it grabs that means it could have brought anyone through. If it’s a door. Someone would have to approach it.”

Again, Roy shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Dean interjected. “Can we test? Can we go back in time, and have you send the beam through to see.”

Roy shook his head. “No. That would be two things the machine is doing. The entire reason for having the return beam is if one traveler returned and the other doesn’t. The beam has to be sent from the same origin point. Gentleman, instead of worrying about the location or how the beam looked to the other side, we need to worry about something else?”

“And that is?” Frank beckoned an answer. “Who did we steal from the future?”

“Not a ‘who’”

“A thing? As in car?” Frank questioned “Couch?’

Roy shook his head and simply stated. “If this machine worked, if this machine brought a subject back, knowing what resided in my future time, I wouldn’t be concerned with who … I would be concerned…” He peered with some trepidation to Frank and the others. “Withwhatwe brought back.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

It went from light to dark.

The air went thin, almost unbreathable.

One moment he was sitting in front of a fire, roasting his dinner over an open pit, sharpening his knife, and the next a huge light appeared and he no longer could breathe right.

What happened to his friend? His fire? Dinner? The trees that had lost their leaves due to the change of season were suddenly budding.

It wasn’t the same forest. No way.

The trees were small.

What happened?

Had he consumed too much substance that it took him away? It was illegal for hunters to drink the drink, but he enjoyed it.

It was strange, he felt strange.

He blacked out for a second then ended up somewhere different. As if he were transported to another place. But that wasn’t possible. No way. He heard tales that at one time man could do that, but he shook it off. Man didn’t have that technology. No way.

But other worlds, men from the stars, they had it. At least that’s what he and his people believed.

Now he was alone.

Completely alone.

The sounds were strange, small chirping sounds he never heard before.

He reached down to the ground and lifted a hand full of dirt, bringing it to his mouth to sniff.

Different.

There were minerals in there he didn’t recognize.

But he did recognize hunger.

He had to find food.

His hunt was in vain as it seemed to vanish … or he did.

A sniff. A hard sniff brought him a direction. To the left. He focused, waited; even in the darkness he could catch the scent. The blood.

Yes. There.

It was big, almost as big as he was. Covered in thick black fur. The animal was like none he had seen. It reminded him of a looper but without horns on its head.

The creature bucked to its hind legs and growled.

He growled back and the creature charged toward him.

Was he sacrificing himself?

Surely he was, because he didn’t know what he was up against.

The animal or creature was stupid.

He stood his ground waiting, and pulled forth his knife. A long object with a bone handle.

The animal lunged out its paw and stomped.

Too easy. Too simple.

He slashed out quickly and the animal fell with a groan.

He hovered over the creature, finishing it off with a thick slice to its throat. He turned it on its side to let the blood flow.

As soon as it stopped breathing, and the blood stopped pulsating, he would gut it, skin it, and cook it. It should have enough meat to last a couple days.

At least until he could figure out what was going on and where he was.

Food first.

Food was always first.

And he turned to his hunter skills to eat.

****

Frank was exhausted.

He stayed at Dean’s, helped him pack, but something about what Roy said stuck with him. It must have stuck with all of them as well. Because about two hours after he left Dean’s, Jason called.

He asked Frank if he was restless. Frank said yes. Jason described his feeling as if they were missing something.

Frank had the same feeling. Ellen had come home a little tipsy and went straight to bed. Frank paced the living room. The call from Roy didn’t make things easier.

“I was able to determine when the beams landed,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Where each beam went.”

“Oh my God, it went to three different time frames.”

“Yes. The first is undetermined. The other, one hundred and thirty-two years from now, and hold on … seventeen hundred years from now.”

“Is there even a world seventeen hundred years from now?”

“There’s a space.”

“Did anything come through?”

“We can’t determine.”

Frank sighed out.

“Frank. Can we speak?”

Frank was going to say yes, but something inside of him told him it wasn’t a telephone conversation.

He met up with Roy.

“Do you recall Dean and Ellen’s Aragon Window future?” Roy asked.

“Yeah, or rather what they told me.”

“They spoke of a world that was good, But with a problem with LEP?”

“I remember that. That’s why I was wanting you to work on Harry the fetus.”

“Frank, their nestings can contain up to a hundred fetus at a time. They reproduce within a year. That is how they got out of control. In that future.”

“In yours?”

“In ours it went out of control because we sought a solution to the infertility virus. Embryos were implanted and those embryos turned out to be …”

“Killer Babies.”

“Yes,” Roy nodded.

“Have you ever thought about curing the infertility virus before it hits.”

“I have. But it is impossible without a strain.”

“Maybe we can put the HG Wells to good use. In both histories the virus hits.”

“Do you know why?”

“No.”

“It started with the LEP when one had sex with a female of ours.”

Frank’s eyes widened. “That would have been the same in both.”

“Probably.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Frank asked.

“It is told, or Danny Hoi told me that he and Billy went to the future and saw. Saw a world he described as a Planet of the Apes world only with LEP.”

“Oh my God.’

“So I fear …”

“If that is still the future, what we brought through could be …”

“Very advanced LEP.”

“No.” Frank shook his head. “I refuse to believe that we brought anything back. Refuse.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, it’s a pot shot. A chance shot. It’s a dead world. Population will never be what it was. A wayward beam hit something or someone.”

“So you think we’re worrying too much?”

“Absolutely.”

Roy seemed to take heart in that.

But when Frank went his own way he sought out Robbie. He told Robbie what had occurred.

And together, both of them, began a search.

They took a jeep out beyond the perimeter and were gone until sun up.

Exhausted. No sleep.

When they returned both of them had a full day ahead of them.

“You know Frank, it would be easier if Roy knew where the beam came back.”

“He estimated it has to be within a few hundred miles radius of here.”

“Then we search. We search until we know nothing came back in that beam.”

Frank nodded.

“What does your gut say?” Robbie asked.

“It says something came back.”

“Then I say put the towns on alert.” Robbie suggested. “Creedville, Jordan and Bowman. Put them on alert for anything strange. Obviously nothing occurred in the towns or we’d know. Right?”

“Right.”

“So if something arrived it arrived hundreds of miles away. And if they are LEP, how many, really came through?”

“True.”

“Ok, so let’s do an alert.”

“How?” Frank asked. “What do we tell them?”

“You can tell Hal the truth, the others won’t suspect anything. After all we could have brought back a dog, or little girl again.”

Frank sighed out. “Thanks, little brother.”

“You’re welcome. And good luck today with your Dean broadcast.”

“I will.”

“And I’m gonna sneak a nap.”

“You do that.” Frank headed toward his office; Robbie got back in the jeep and drove off.

Was he over reacting or was there a sixth sense about something.

Frank knew the answer to that was uncertain, and ironically, only time would tell.

****

It wasn’t the wake up he preferred. Hal usually was a pleasant person in the morning, but only after he had his coffee. That was why he had coffee at his own apartment before embarking to the mess hall.

He sipped. Got dressed. Sipped again and enjoyed a cigarette.

He even looked forward to the morning fare at the mess hall.

Then his phone rang.

“Yes, Frank.” Hal said.

“You busy?”

Something was in Frank’s tone. It wasn’t the usual aggravating tone he had. Or upbeat. It was concern.

“What’s wrong?” Hal asked.

“Hal, did you have anything unusual happen this morning?”

“No, was something supposed to happen.”

“I hope not.”

Hal was on his way out, but stopped to talk to Frank. “What’s going on?”

“I went to Dean’s last night to resolve everything. Figure out what I’m gonna do, how we’re gonna break the truth to the community. Well, Dean and Roy started fighting, then they started fighting over the time machine and one thing led to another. The HG Wells dropped, a beam shot out. It was a retractor beam.”

“Did it bring something in?”

“We don’t know.”

“Do you know where it went?”

“Don’t you mean when?”

“The future.”

“Yep. Over a hundred years. Three locations and one beam hit like a thousand years in the future.”

“Is there a world a thousand years from now?”

Frank chuckled. “That’s what I asked.”

“So you’re concerned.”

“Hal, I’ve been up all night.”

“Worried.”

“Searching.”

“For?” Hal asked.

“Anything. Anything that I could. Anything I could say may have come through the beam.”

“Do we even know anything came through?”

“No.”

“Then listen. We keep an eye out. You issue warnings of strange occurrences and that’s it. Tell them to add security, but that’s all you can do. Frank, you can’t do or battle anything until you know what you are up against. You can’t even prepare.”

“I know.”

“Please don’t worry about it.”

“I’ll try.”

“I’m here.”

“Thanks, Hal, I appreciate it.”

“I know you do big brother. And did you resolve the Dean and Roy situation?” Hal asked.

“Hal, they hate each other. You and Robbie were right.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“Have them both live in Beginnings. Nothing like a little excitement.”

“Like Beginnings needs that.”

“I’ll let you go. Oh, hey, Hal?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re a writer and all, if I brought you my script to Frank’s Day Out will you look at it and give me your opinion.”

‘Absolutely, Frank I’d be honored.”

“Thanks.”

After they hung up, Hal thought about what he had said. Honored to read Frank’s script? Although he enjoyed the book and audio tape, he really didn’t know how they were going to pull a major motion picture out of a ten page picture book.

He checked out the time, he was already a few minutes late for his breakfast meeting with Elliott. He hoped that Elliot secured him a bacon portion. It’s not often they had bacon in the mess hall. Not like it was anything similar to bacon in the old world, they hadn’t accomplished that hickory flavor, but it was close.

Hal left his apartment and walked to the mess.

Elliott waved him over and as Hal hoped, he had retrieved his breakfast tray. Complete with bacon.

“Morning Captain.”

“Morning Elliott. Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome. The bacon was going fast.”

“As I figured.” Hal brought this mug over. “And the coffee. Thank you.”

“How was your morning?” Elliott asked.

“Seeing how it just started, great. Elliott you worked last night. Anything unusual happen?”

“No, it was calm. We didn’t even have an incident at the Hoot and Shout event at Hoi-Hoi on the Range. Although I thought it would spark one.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, Ellen went to the Hoot and Shout event with George.”

Hal gazed up. “Ellen went with George?”

“Yes, to try to spark some jealously with Margaret. Margaret got intoxicated but it seems nothing occurred.”

“Why is Ellen spending so much time with George?”

“Because her husband doesn’t spend time with her.”

“My brother is very busy man with a lot of responsibility.”

“I understand that,” Elliott said. “But there are times that Frank could be at home.”

“Perhaps he just takes it for granted.”

“The worst mistake.”


Page 18

“Speaking of mistakes,” Hal folded his hands on the table. “They had a little indiscretion with the time machine.”

“I thought Jason’s time machine was broke.”

“The HG Wells.”

“I thought the HG Wells was broke,” Elliott said.

“It’s not and I’ll explain later. But, Frank fears something came through.”

“Something came through the HG Wells.”

Hal nodded.

“Do they know for sure?”

“Not yet.”

“How would something come through?” Elliott asked.

“It’s beyond me. All I know is there is a retractor beam, and it went off when our Dean and Dean Clone were fighting.”

“Oh, no.” Elliott sat back. “You feared that.”

“Yes, I know. Clash of the Brainiac’s.”

“Are they still moving forward with having them both in Beginnings?” Elliott asked.

“As far as I know, Frank said it would add excitement.”

“I can’t wait to see how he explains it to the community. I mean how will they handle it?”

“Good God, Elliott, it’s Beginnings.” Hal said. “What do they care about? Frank will tell them. They’ll say, ‘oh’ and then move on to more important matters like Frank’s movie rendition of his children’s book, the newest sales in Bowmen and the Most Smartest Hero in Beginnings Contest.”

Elliott laughed. “You know, I really hope I am voted into that contest.”

“Really?”

“That sounds like so much fun.”

“And Danny thinks Frank is gonna win.”

“Well …” Elliott hem hawed. “If you think about it.”

“Think about what? Do you honestly think Frank would win?”

Elliott didn’t respond.

“Elliott, he may be hero enough but is he smart enough.”

“Depends.”

“You mean if they ask military questions?”

“No.” Elliott shook his head. “It depends on whether or not the intellectual challenge is held in isolation or in front of people.”

“What do you mean?”

“Frank. Captain, he reads minds.”

“Oh … my … God.”

Elliott nodded. “If he doesn’t know the answer …”

“Someone around him might.”

“Exactly.”

“Fuck. Fuck.” Hal stood up. “He can’t win this. I want to win this.”

“That’s easy. Think the wrong answer really strong.”

Hal smiled. “That is a brilliant idea. I do hope you get voted to play.”

Elliott was about to agree and he stopped. His eyes lifted and he looked beyond Hal.

“What?” Hal asked then turned around to see Corporal Lewis enter.

Lewis had a look on his face. Shock. As if someone died.

“Corporal Lewis?” Hal stood. “Is everything ok?”

“You briefed us on what President Slagel said. What his feelings were about our man that was taken by the Canadian mass, right?”

“Yes.”

“He’s psychic.”

“Excuse me.”

“Captain. I just received a radio call from our scout that was taken.” Lewis said. “They released him. He’s on his way home. He’s fine. Healthy, uninjured, and on his way home. Said he’d brief us when he arrived. I’ve sent troops to meet him. Escort him home safely. We had men about twenty five miles from his reported location.”

Hal was shocked. Not that he didn’t trust Frank’s guess, but he didn’t think he’d be so right on.

It took him aback. Hal was grateful. But on another hand he was worried, because Frank was calling the ‘Great War’ progress as if Frank himself was a futuristic guru, and if Frank continued to be right, the Great War was closer than they thought.

****

Had Fr. O’Brien not been on an all-night drinking binge following a wild night at the Hoot and Shout, he may not have stumbled across the man. The good priest was wandering the streets on the extremely warm April night, when he saw the figure stumbling.

He told Doctor Blue he thought it was a zombie, the way he staggered. Then he thought the man had to be drunk, until he drew closer.

The man was ill, very ill, and he rushed him to the clinic.

Thank God Blue was still there.

He was sewing up Josephine after she fell drunk onto the bar at Hoi-Hoi on the Range.

Blue couldn’t figure out what it was.

“Hot damn that looks like the plague” Josephine stated. “Maybe it was a delayed reaction or something.”

Blue took the rambling as that, but only for a moment.

Each clinic in the provinces of Beginnings had a supply of the plague antidote that Dean created. Basically it was a souped up antibiotic, and to the best of Blue’s knowledge wouldn’t hurt.

He guessed.

So he gave the man a dose.

His symptoms decreased almost immediately and he started to get better.

He murmured, ‘where am I?’ just before he passed out.

Sleep for a few days was a side effect of the drug.

It worked. But did it work on the man because he was sick or because he had the plague. And if he had the plague, how in the world did he get it.

It was a concern of Blue’s, but not one he would worry about until further testing. So he drew the blood, marked it urgent, and sent it to Beginnings with the first rider.

Dean didn’t answer his phone, so Blue left a note.

‘Please check this for our plague’

He then instructed Dean to keep it quiet. After all, no one would want a panic to ensue. What if someone immune suddenly became un-immune?

At least they had a medicine for it.

 

The man was resting nicely, tucked in and asleep in the bed.

Blue lifted his chart. He was so focused on stabilizing the man he never bothered to get his name.

No name. Who was it?

He looked familiar. Very familiar, but Blue didn’t know his name.

“Goddamn it,” Blue cursed his age, figuring that was the reason for his lack of memory.

He called his assistant in, he didn’t recognize the man either.

Was it a stranger? Did he stumble into town? Was he one of those quiet residents? Maybe he was from Jordan.

In any event, Blue knew him. Or at least he thought he knew him.

He was perturbed that it happened, it was mark of inefficiency in his clinic and that was rare for Blue.

But Blue had to figure out the man’s name. He may have a medical condition that was urgent.

Hating to do it, Blue needed answers, and if the man was from Bowman, there were two people that knew everyone’s name. If they didn’t, they could call in who did.

After procrastinating a bit with coffee and breakfast, Blue sought out Sgt. Ryder and Capt. Slagel.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

“He did what?” Joe blasted.

Robbie winced. “He, meaning, Frank, didn’t do anything. He’s being cautious.”

“Christ.” Joe reached into his chest pocket and pulled out a cigarette.

“Dad, why are you smoking?”

“Because I want a cigarette.” Joe flipped the lid on his Zippo and ignited the end into a fiery red cherry. He blew out the smoke.

Robbie grabbed the pack as well and lit one. “It’s been a long night.”

“You don’t even know what you’re looking for.”

“Nope.”

“If anything.”

Robbie shook his head. “I wasn’t there. Remember. All I know is Frank came home and grabbed me. We’ve been searching all night. Nothing is unusual.”

“Have you talked to Hal?”

“He did and Hal said nothing unusual happened there.”

“If this machine zapped something back, it could have landed anywhere.”

“I just thought of something.”

“What’s that?”

“The little girl,” Robbie said.

“What are you talking about?”

“The one with a tattoo on her neck of a karaoke cd.” Robbie indicated to this own neck. ”She didn’t speak.”

“Ok.”

“What if when he pulled something from the future he pulled her through to arrive months ago?”

“Is it possible?”

Robbie shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I would think, or rather hope the beam didn’t grab something. Maybe it would be something a person has to approach.”

Robbie started to chuckle.

“What? What is so funny now?”

“All those tales about space ships and lights beaming down. What if it was the time machine?”

Joe rolled his eyes and plopped on the couch of the trailer. “Anything anymore is possible. Speaking of possible. Were you able to snatch me up a TV set?”

“Danny is working on it for you. Been busy with Beginnings with the Most Smartest Hero contest.”

“Good. I’m bored up here. I was actually thinking of moving in with Dean in that house outside of Bowman.”

“Yeah, right.” Robbie snickered. “Dad, you and Dean wouldn’t be able to live together. Plus, he’s moving back to Beginnings.”

“All the better, I can live with Roy.”

Robbie shook his head.

“Roy is going back.”

“Roy is staying in this time.”

“Where?” Joe asked.

“Beginnings.”

“How is that gonna happen?”

“Frank says . . . he has a plan.”

Joe closed his eyes. “Christ.”

****

Ellen had a few minutes to work in the cryo lab. The puppy embryos were coming along nicely and she couldn’t wait until the first litter.

She had to work in Containment. Which would be an easy day. After all, they were rehearsing for encore performance of the presentation of Joe Day.

Blue had called, sounding worried. Ellen had just ended that conversation. He told her about the patient in Bowman who was sick. He was worried it was the old plague.

Although nothing was impossible, she assured him that the antidote Hope worked on several viral strains of Pneumonia as well. Quite quickly too.

When he said he didn’t know the patient, Ellen was positive she did. There was a man, which fit the description like that in Jordan. John Grain, he was ill and hacking up a storm at the Shout and Hoot the night before.

Probably him.

Would she make sure Dean checked the blood anyhow, he asked her.

Ellen told him she would if Dean didn’t.

That wasted ten minutes of her thirty.

She started to get antsy.

There was nothing better than watching the puppy embryos float about and move.

The cryo door buzzed. Ellen didn’t turn around.

“El?” Dean called out.

Ellen lifted her head and stared out, still not turning around.

“You may want to come topside to get a signal. Frank has an announcement on TV in a bit.”

The corner of Ellen’s mouth raised in a smile. “I’m busy Roy.”

Dean stopped.

She turned around. “I’m surprised to see you up and about,” She said, hiding her excitement. “I mean after all, when you got back last night we had a long night.” She winked.

Dean’s jaw twitched and he turned.

“Dean.”

He stopped.

“I missed you.” She rushed to him.

With a wide smile, Dean faced her and took her into his arms. They embraced long and hard. He buried his lips near her ear, breathing outward. “I missed you too El. God, I missed you.”

“What are you doing here? Did you sneak?”

He shook his head, kissed her on the cheek and stepped back. “I’m home.”

“What?”

“Home.” He held up his hand. “Frank has figured out a way that Roy and I and both live here.”

“Really?” She grinned. ”Oh, Dean, that makes me so happy. I need you in my life right now. Frank is so busy.”

“I know. And I’ll be here. I miss the kids. I can’t wait to see them.”

“Is Frank going to explain it all to the people here?”

“Yep. The clone thing. He says he has an explanation. The truth. Sort of.”

“The truth, sort of?” Ellen asked.

“Well, yeah, he’s gonna tell the truth, leaving some things out.”

“I wonder what he’s gonna say?”

“You’ll have to come up and watch. But for now …” He looked at his watch. “I have to go. I can’t be seen until after his announcement.”

“I know. Once people see you, they’re gonna wonder how they were fooled.”

“You weren’t, were you?”

“Dean, I knew the second he spoke.” She reached out and touched his face. “He’s not my Dean.”

He grabbed her hand, slid it to his mouth and kissed it. “I’ll see you in a bit. I just wanted to stop by.”

Ellen nodded.

He darted a kiss to her. “It’s good to be back.” With a smile, he stepped back, turned and left the cryo lab.

“It’s good to have you back, Dean,” Ellen whispered, standing alone. “It’s good to have you back.”

****

Hal and Elliott moved with a quick pace toward the hospital in Bowman.

“When did this happen?” Hal asked.

“Last night,” replied Elliott. “He was stumbling, sick, and Fr. O’Brien found him.”

“Odd. And Blue doesn’t know him?”

“Not at all.”

“Did we receive any calls from Doyle camp or Jordan about missing residents?”

“None. But, a few were here for the event last night. Ellen recalled one that was coughing pretty badly and fit the description.”

“What is the description of the patient?”

“Male, mid-forties, brown hair, a little on the heavy side.”

“Hmm.” Hal rubbed his chin then reached for the clinic doors. “I’m sure we’ll know who he is.”

 

“I have no idea who that is,” Hal whispered, arms folded, standing side by side with Elliott near the patient’s bed.

“Me either.” Elliott studied the man.

Blue shrugged. “No one knows him. He has to be one of those Jordanian people. They don’t socialize often with us.”

“More than likely,” Hal said. “And he’ll be out for how long?”

“Another day or two,” Blue said.

“How’s his health.” Hal questioned.

“Symptoms are better, improving.”

With a sigh, Hal stepped back. “Elliott, take a photo and we’ll send Owens to Jordan to get an ID on this man.”

“Yes Captain.” Elliott raised the camera.

“You came prepared,” Blue stated.

“Always,” Elliott smiled.

Hal walked to ward the door. “I’ll meet you at my office. Thank you Blue.”

“You’re welcome.” Blue nodded.

Elliott readied to take the picture and he paused. “This is odd.”

“Everything is odd, Elliott,” Hal said. “Explain what you mean.”

“It’s just that . . . you would think someone would know him,” Elliot said. “Given that he looks remarkably like Elvis.”

This made Hal stop cold.

****

“Hal, I’m about to go on TV, I’ll call you back.” Frank grumbled. “I promise. Thanks.” He hung up. “Man.”

“Turn the ringer off, Frank.” Danny instructed. “Ok?”

“Here, take it until I’m done.” Frank handed it to Danny.

Danny placed it in his pocket. “Ok we’re set wait for my cue.”

“Which will be?”

“I’ll signal you.”

“How?”

“With my hand.”

“Are you gonna wave?”

“No, I’m . . .” Danny paused. “Yeah, I’m gonna wave.”

“Got it.”

Danny stepped behind the camera. He fiddled at first with the computer, and then returned to his cameraman position. He counted out with his fingers, one, and two and pointed.

Frank stared.

“Frank.” Danny whispered. “You’re on.”

“Oh. You were supposed to wave.”

Danny cringed.

Frank looked into the camera, then down to his notes. “Hello, my name is Frank Slagel. I am the president in case you didn’t know. I have a very important message today. I hope that you’ll all understand and be, you know, understanding.”

He shuffled his note cards.

“When Fort first arrived. I know I thought he was just another crazy black guy spouting off about the future. Seems Fort was right. He did chase a clone through the time machine. I know this because I, we, have been living with the clone among us. When I tell you the name of the clone, you’re gonna be like, wow, how did I not know. I was like that, too. The clone came through as a means to interfere with my dad’s death. But failed and was stuck here.”

Dean stood back stage with Roy waiting. Frank was going to tell how he had the clone take Dean’s place to draw out the killer.

Frank continued, “Remember when Dean admitted to creating clones and he murdered them all.”

Dean cringed.

“He murdered all but one. The clone of himself.” Frank stared out.

“What’s he doing?” Dean asked Roy.

“Giving people a moment to digest.

After the pause, Frank went on, “Dean discovered his clone in a drunken binge . . .”

“I what!” Dean blasted.

“And, after deliberation thought it would be cool for both of them to work for the better of the community. But because he didn’t want the clone to get in trouble or himself for cloning, he hid out.”

“I’m killing him.” Dean mumbled.

“I discovered the clone …”

“You? You?”

Roy just smiled. “Frank is very good.”

Dean gave him a cross glance.

“I discovered the clone when I realized how nice and neat everything the clone did. And his unnatural attraction to Happy Days.” Frank said. “When I approached him, he came clean. His name is Roy and he’s pretty damn cool, not to mention brilliant. I tell you this and ask that you as a community forgive the selfish, I wanna be alone for a while and not bother with my kids, attitude of Dean, and accept the brilliance of both of these men, and the promise of a better future they can bring.”

“Not bad.” Roy commented. “It will work.”

Dean shook his head “I can’t possibly imagine anything else he could say to make it worse.”

Frank started to leave, but stopped. “One more thing.” He said into the microphone. “Dean will be available at the clinic for questions in the next hour.” He winked. “Have a good day.” He stepped off camera and to Dean. “What did you think?”

“You’re an asshole.” Dean snapped.

****

Joe turned off the TV. Danny had gone into rules and regulations regarding Beginnings Most Smartest Hero and said he would announce those chosen by nightfall.

Just about the time, Joe had enough and wasn’t in the mood to watch a Happy Days rerun, Robbie walked in.

“Dean’s pissed.” Robbie shut the door.

“I bet.” Joe stood up.

“People were flocking to the clinic, Andrea threw a bird, and demanded a question and answer session be at the Social Hall. So I locked Roy and Dean in there and made people line up.”

“That’s sounds smart.”

“Yeah, I figured, if they had to wait an hour they may leave.”

Joe nodded.

“Hal called. I have to go to Bowman and check something out.”

“What’s that?” Joe asked.

“He has a man there that got sick last night. Fr. O’Brien found him. No one knows him.”

“Is he from Jordan?” Joe asked.

“That’s what he thought. Elliott took a ride up there and no one knows him.”

Joe rubbed his chin. “Sounds odd.”

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