Saturday, February 19, 2005

Meet Joshua Wander, Part Sixteen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.

Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here. Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for most of the rest. Links to earlier installments are on the sidebar.

Part Twelve: Chris/Josh insists on going to see Professor John Grayson. He and Rachel both think he's probably at the lab rather than the funeral home. Indeed he is. Josh and his friends find Officer Hennigan unconscious outside the lab. Leaving his friends behind, Josh goes through the door to confront Grayson.

Part Thirteen: Grayson has Officer Cindy Farrell tied in Rachel's chair in the lab. Grayson has been experimenting on himself as he experimented on Chris, and now he's trying to recreate the circumstances of Rachel's death, secretly recorded on videotape. Chris/Josh manages to interrupt the power to the lab, reducing Grayson's ability to use energy as a weapon. Just then, Hennigan, Onclemac and Jerry finally make it past the locked door and rush in.

Part Fourteen: Officer Farrell threatens to arrest Grayson, angering him further. Josh manages to deflect one bolt of electricity, and tries to block further attack by covering her with his own insubstantial form. Then he moves off again, leaving Rachel's spirit visible where Cindy Farrell stood a moment before.

Part Fifteen: Rachel tells Grayson that he's being irrational and unscientific, and that all three of them--John, Chris and Rachel herself--were responsible for her death. A pool of light then forms above her, and she ascends into it, leaving Farrell behind. Her telepathic parting words to Chris are "See you in Heaven--and don't dawdle."

Part Sixteen: Upstairs

I couldn’t believe Rachel was gone, just like that. Neither could Grayson. He stood and stared at the ceiling, long enough for Officer Hennigan to sneak up and snap handcuffs on him.

“As I was saying,” Cindy Farrell said, “You’re under arrest.”

I half-expected Grayson to slip out of the cuffs like moonlight through a window. He tried, but it didn’t happen. John Grayson was still fully corporeal, at least for the moment.

“If you’ll take the advice of a disembodied ex-physics student,” I told the police, “you’ll keep him out of brightly-lit rooms. In fact, you may want to wait for sunset before taking him downtown.”

Grayson used one of Nixon’s more colorful expletives.

“Why?” Hennigan asked.

“Because he can use light as a weapon. Obviously.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Farrell said.

“Chris,” Harry said. “We should go now.”

I looked at Grayson. After that last outburst, the fight seemed to have gone out of him. He was slumped over, staring at the floor as Hennigan and Farrell finished securing him between them.

“Yeah, okay,” I said. I started toward the door, where Jerry and Harry were already.

“No,” said Onclemac. “I mean it’s time to go.” He looked at me meaningfully.

“Soon. I promise,” I said. “But first, let’s leave this lab.” I turned back to Grayson and said, “I’m sorry about all this, Dr. John. I truly am.”

“Eat ultraviolet and die, Stein,” he said. “This isn’t over. Wherever you go, I’ll find a way to follow you and take my revenge.”

“Tag,” I said. “I guess you’re it. Maybe by the time you find me you’ll be a bit less homicidal. Let’s go, guys.” I walked through the open doorway, closely followed by Jerry and Harry. Once we were well down the hall, I said, “He’s going to escape, you know. He’ll never stand trial.”

“I know,” Harry said, “but it’s better that you not be around when he does escape. Are you ready to go back to Angland now?”

“Almost. Just let me go upstairs for a minute. Then I’ll meet you outside.”

“Why? What’s upstairs?” Jerry asked.

I had already decided on an answer to this. “If I’m lucky, I’ll find a way to keep the power supply out of commission for a while. I should be able to disrupt things from the wiring above the lab. I also need to replenish the energy I expended on the illusion of Dr. Rachel and her trip to heaven.”

Jerry frowned. "The illusion of Dr. Rachel? She wasn’t real?”

“The important thing is that Dr. John thought she was real,” I said. “I don’t need you to believe it, too.”

Harry frowned. “Then why bother to retrieve energy from the wiring? Why not just go outside in the sunlight?”

“In Syracuse? Are you joking? This isn’t one of the 87 sunny days a year. Besides, I seem to do better with concentrated energy sources than with anything as diffuse as daylight. Notice, for example, that crossing the Quad didn’t give me my feet back.”

Jerry nodded thoughtfully. “That’s true,” he said.

“But look here, Josh,” Harry said. “What does it matter if you use electricity to replenish your noncorporeal form? With any luck, you’ll have a human body again as soon as we get to Angland.”

“Even humans need energy,” I said. “I imagine that wizards need even more of it than most people. Am I right?”

“As a general rule, yes,” Onclemac acknowledged grumpily.

“Well, then, I mean to leave her with at least as much energy as I had coming in. Now, let me go, before the cops lose control of Grayson.”

“We’ll come with you,” Harry said.

I shook my nonexistent head. “No. Too dangerous, and you can't go where I'll be going. I’ll be right back.” I ducked into the stairway, not because I needed the stairs themselves, but as a handy way to determine my angle of ascent. Harry and Jerry stood on the landing, looking up at me. Then they turned and started down the stairs. Good.

The room above the lab was one of the older classrooms on campus. About 30 steel chairs with fold-down veneered mini desktops stood in mostly neat rows. Rachel stood in front of a green multipaneled chalkboard, which was all covered in notes about vectors and velocity. She turned as I came in.

“Is this soon enough?” I said.

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve
Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Part Fifteen

No comments: