Saturday, March 05, 2005

Meet Joshua Wander, Part Eighteen

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: Farrell and Hennigan manage to arrest Grayson, and Josh and friends leave the lab. Onclemac wants to take Josh back to Angland immediately, but Josh insists on going upstairs first--alone. This is ostensibly to disrupt the power to the lab from above, depriving Grayson of electromagnetic power he could use to attack or escape. But when Josh enters the third floor classroom, Rachel is there, as he'd hoped she would be.

Part Seventeen: Rachel is a little depressed that she has not thus far seen a way to get to Heaven for real. She reenters Josh, and he goes into the space between the floors to disrupt the power. For a moment he is tempted to become part of the current, but Rachel stops him with a word. Josh sends the power looping back on itself, and "recharges" himself at the same time. The power goes out to the lab below. Josh goes outside to rejoin Harry and Jerry.

Part Eighteen: Illusions

“How did it go?” Jerry asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I think I shorted out the whole floor, and I personally have all the energy I need.”

“Now are you ready to leave?” Harry asked.

“Pretty much, yeah,” I said.

“We were talking about what we saw upstairs,” Jerry said. “Are you sure that wasn’t Dr. Rachel?”

“That was an image of Dr. Rachel,” I said, half-truthfully.

“But she—“

“—was the only person Dr. John would have listened to,” I said.

Too true, Rachel commented.

“I had to do something to deter him, with you two hanging around in the line of fire,” I continued defensively.

“We were only trying to help,” Harry said.

“How could you have helped, beyond reviving Officer Hennigan? Could you have protected yourself or Jerry if Grayson decided to attack you? Can you even do magic here?”

“If I have to, yes,” said Onclemac.

“That’s a relief," I said. “I was beginning to think you couldn’t.”

“Unlike you, I don’t like doing magic in a science-oriented reality,” Onclemac said. “It doesn’t work as well, and it attracts attention.”

“Are you saying I should have pretended to be normal? It wouldn’t have worked. I needed to do the things I’ve done here. Besides, I couldn’t look normal if I tried, much less ride in a police car—or die when Grayson tried to kill me.”

“Couldn’t you?” Harry said.

I frowned at him. “Couldn’t I what? Die?”

“You could have pretended to die. You could have pretended to be solid. If you can make Rachel Grayson appear before our eyes, you can almost certainly make yourself look normal.”

He’s probably right about that, Rachel remarked.

It hadn’t occurred to me to try such a thing. “To what end?” I said. “The illusion of being solid wouldn’t grant me the ability to handle objects. I think being what I am has worked out pretty well. Don’t you?”

“I think it doesn’t matter,” Jerry said, “because you’re constitutionally incapable of acting like a normal person.” He grinned. “That’s what I like about you.”

“Don’t encourage him,” Harry said, but I could see he was amused.

“Listen, about Dr. Rachel,” Jerry said. “I don’t get how you did that. She looked and sounded so real.”

I’d been afraid the subject of Rachel’s appearance would come up again. But I had a plan. “How about this?” I said. “Does this look real?”


“This. Watch.” Gathering what light I could from the cloudy afternoon Syracuse sky, I directed it to gather over a slab of sidewalk twenty feet away. Then I found a broadcast signal to shape the light’s behavior. President Jimmy Carter stood before us on the sidewalk, said something about the Middle East, and disappeared again.

“You got me there,” Jerry said. “He did look pretty real.”

“Who was that?” Harry asked.

“President Carter,” Jerry said.

“Huh. What happened to Nixon? Did he go to jail?”

“No. President Ford pardoned him,” I said.

“How do you do things like that?” Jerry asked. “The projection of Carter, the Heaven thing, riding phone lines…how do you even know you can do it?” He sounded envious.

I shrugged. “I just try stuff, and it works. It wouldn’t be any fun if I knew in advance what I could do or how to do it.”

“You’re a little crazy, do you know that?” Jerry said.

“It’s been mentioned,” I replied. It occurred to me that my consent to being experimented upon was evidence that I’d been a little unstable from the beginning. Oh, well. Grayson was worse. He’d clearly designed the experiments to do something drastic, even if the results he expected weren’t the ones he got.

“Are we done here, finally?” Harry said. “Can we go home now?”

“Home?” I asked.

“My home. Angland.”

“I guess so,” I said. “Bye, Jerry. Tell the D&D group that I’ll miss everyone. Including you.”

“Take me with you,” Jerry said.

One entry left, folks!

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

Use the sidebar to read it all in order!

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