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[Fiction] Layers


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-Excerpts from the Senate Select Sub-Committee on Nova Affairs – July 28th 2015

{angry voices}

Neil Preston: “Paraphrasing one of the great poet-philosophers of our time, we are not beholden to explain ourselves to you. Take us as we are. We are your children, we may be your future, but we are not going to be your slaves.”

Sen. Braxton (Dem. - Ill.) “Mr. Preston, we are not putting anyone into a harness, but ..”

NP: “My ass … sorry, sir, but that’s shit. For the past two weeks you have been looking for ways to find me responsible for actions that no baseline would be held accountable for. You don’t get it both ways.”

{angry murmuring}

Sen. Vellara (Rep. – N.Mex.) “Calm down, young man.”

NP: “No sir. I’ve had it with this. You are not my peers. Not only do you not understand me, you don’t want to understand me.

Sen. Orr (Lib. – Montana) “But aren’t you responsible?”

Sen. V.: “Order, gentleman. Order.”

NP: “I’m done here. I’ve tried to be patient with this … whatever the hell this is. I’ve put up with a month of these meetings and waiting around here when I could be doing something important. No more.”

Sen. B: “We are not done yet.”

NP: “Then have fun talking to each other.”

Sen. V: “If you leave, you will be compelled to testify, young man.”

NP: (scoffing) “You want to try, I’ll fight. I’ve got the resources. You want to take my Medical license away, go right ahead, but understand this. I hold the power of life and death in my hands. You do not matter were that is concerned. I’m done trying to explain that to you because deep down, you are too afraid to listen. I will go were I am needed and do what I feel I should. Do what you will; I’ll do what I must.”

“Hell, I came here of my own free will. You want me to show up again, I suggest you send some Federal Marshals. A lot of them, because you are going to need them.”

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-September 7th, 2015 - Bonne Holmes Retreat and Spa, Western Mass.

Preston came storming up the stairs like a Wraith of Justice upset. The staff practically fled before him as he made his way to his wife’s … his ex-wife’s room. His ex-wife sat on the bed, staring at Neil. Neil sat in a chair by the door, cell phone still in his hands, head down, while in the corner, out of sight, but not unheard, stood her doctor. This man started speaking.

“Thank God, Mr. Preston. I am afraid your son has become unhinged he thinks …”

Neil looked up at his father and interrupted.

“It’s not her, Father. It’s a good facsimile, but it’s not her.”

Preston stepped up and put a hand on his son’s shoulder. His ex-wife, Katharine, turned to face him.

“Craig,” she said coldly, but with a bit of detachment, “what is wrong with Neil?”

Instead of responding, Preston reached out and touched her knee. It came to him then. Two weeks ago, with Neil away and him caught up in some business with those Terats, they had switched her out. The creature before him didn’t even know it was a doppelganger. Still, it had touched his ex-wife. It had taken her shape, her DNA, and her memories. It was going to fail and dissolve back into the quantum energies that birthed it, though that would normally take another five weeks.

Preston removed his hand from it and looked over at the doctor. He felt the doppelganger pull away, just as his wife would have from his touch … the anger was still there.

The doctor was clueless. He still didn’t understand. Preston walked past him and took up a hair brush from the drawer. He felt the hairs until he found the right one. His mind reached out down the link of that the hair had to its owner … its dead owner. Preston felt the fist clench his heart, vaguely felt the tear escape his left eye, and heard his son’s quick intake of breath. Neil could read his reactions better than any other novas alive.

“Dad”, came Neil’s voice weakly.

“She’s been killed, Neil. She’s in a deep dark place … I don’t know where … yet.”

“If I …”

“She is long dead, son. We can not change the past. You had to work through things. I had to be in Boston.”

“But if I had known sooner,” Neil began to break down. For all the death he had seen, this one was at home. A doctor can lose any number of patients, but a son only loses one Mother.

Preston went over and put his son’s head against his chest. He had no more tears for his marriage and his ex-wife. It just wasn’t in him to mourn in the company of others, so he held his grieving son and rubbed his hand through his hair.

He looked over at the doctor, who was till looking on in disbelief, or the doppelganger that looked at Neil with real concern and him with a drug-hazed hate. He got Neil to stand up and steered him out of the room. After he sat his son down, he went back into the room and looked at the doppelganger one last time. The doctor was looking at him and back to his ex. Preston reached out and collapsed the doppelganger’s possibilities around it. It mimicked a bloody, nasty death right up until its quantum failed and the body dissipated. Even the blood evaporated into the ether. Preston turned back to the horrified doctor.

“Not my wife,” he added with emphasis. “Do you understand now? Someone kidnapped and murdered Katherine 11 days ago and replaced her with …” he pointed to the collapsed clothing, stockings and shoes were the doppelganger had been moments ago,” that thing.”

“Tell her family. I will file the report with the constable in Wellford.”

Preston finished with the local law enforcement. He knew they were trapped in a conundrum. Preston was the hero-cop whose reach had been felt in every part of New England. The only witness was a semi-hysterical psychiatrist who had seen him disintegrate a body into nothingness, but there was no physical evidence to back it up. Preston claimed that his wife had been kidnapped and murdered, but had no evidence to back those claims up. Right now the Constable had an open investigation with no leads.

“Dad,” Neil called out.

Preston looked over, and up to, his son and nodded.

“I want to know who did this.”

Preston looked at his son hard. Personally, he wanted to kill whoever was responsible. He wanted to rip out their fucking souls and see them barbequed. Neil couldn’t do that, or if he could, he would be changed by it.

“I’m serious, Dad. I want in on this thing. I need to know. I need to know if someone was doing this to me, or to you.”

“If it’s me,” Preston started.

“If it’s you then they’re still fucked. I’ll still make them pay. They should have left Mom alone.”

Preston thought about that now. He turned his intellect to all the clues he had gleamed and it all made perfect sense.

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Neil prepared himself for what he considered to be another insane push in his evolutionary track. It was a matter or re-routing how his quantum flowed and shot-gunning it back through the node. This could cause powerful alterations to his quantum structure, which could be good (as in gaining access to new or greater powers) and bad (forcing such a rapid expansion of the structure could cause taint).

“And,” he whispered to himself, “I am over-complicating this. I’ve done this before.”

He had trouble centering himself, though. This time, he wasn’t reaching for some specific gain, but seeking something specific, for specific gain.”

He couldn’t center himself. He missed his mother and he felt guilt for not seeing her more often.

‘The shell of the woman who was your mother’, he thought.

‘The woman who loved me and cared for me’, he countered.

‘Then why aren’t you weeping?’

There was no good answer to that one. In one aspect, he was almost glad his mother’s troubled mind had been put to rest. It was selfish, he knew, but it was also something that allowed a gapping wound in his soul to start healing. His mother had never been able to grapple with what it meant for him and his father to be novas. She saw things as a human did, in the aspects of wealth, power, and influence. It wasn’t like him and his father had suddenly become circus monkeys, meant to put their lives on hold to entertain the crowds.

He was already rich enough for his needs.

No roar of the crowds could match the look in a mother’s eyes when you saved her child.

The people that really mattered to him listened to him anyway, without games and talk shows.

He loved his mother, but he knew her limitations. She had run up against them so hard that she had broken herself. He had been temped to fix her, but known it would be a sham. He could wallpaper over the cracks and make her functional … thanks to Charr’s rampage, but the deeper flaws were beyond him. He had turned away in his powerlessness and his failings.

Guilt was a lousy motivator. It leads people to do stupid things.

Still, he looked within his mind and fired it up.

He knew what to do. He had watched the careful evolution of his father’s intellect and seen how it should look and that’s what he shot for. It still hurt. The perfect channeling of such forces was beyond him and he felt his structure scarring from the assault. His mind opened up, though. He felt a clarity of thought and vision that dwarfed his previous mindset. So many troubling things in his life became simply solved with the least effort. He had trouble reaching back to the reasons he wanted to find his mother’s murderers. So many other possibilities were open to him now.

With the mental effort worthy of a child steering a twenty story tall earth mover, Neil put his mind to the task of figuring out who was response … and he stopped.

“Oh my god,” he exclaimed, “I’m going to be a father.”

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  • 3 months later...

{Fall of 2015}

Count Raoul Orzaiz, international nova of note, founder of the Teragen, and Master Intriguer, was attempting to find some time alone. As he walked the beach beneath the Villa that bore his family name, his thoughts pondered the myriad concerns of a man of his influence and power. When he rounded the rock outcropping and saw Preston standing there, he could be excused for being momentarily surprised ... not that it showed.

"Officer Preston, to what do I owe the ..."

"You killed my wife," Preston interrupted.

"I have no idea what you are talking about, sir. I am not that kind of person."

"Cut the crap, damn you. I saved your life and this is how you repay me!" Preston all but shouted back. For a moment, Raoul was afraid that his bodyguards might interfere at this careful stage of his plan then he noted how carefully Preston had planned this meeting ... in one of the few minute dark spots in the areas electronic surveillance ... only available at low tides ... like tonight.

"Calm yourself ..." Raoul knew that neither first or last name would be appropriate right now, so he waited.

Preston glared back at him. Now, Raoul knew he had to be careful. It wasn't his life at stake ... he was too good at reading people to believe that Preston was capable of pre-meditated murder. No, to win at this, he had to play the precognative nova just right.


"You knew just who to whisper the right words to, didn't you?"

"I know a great many people, Preston. Some of them dangerous, but you already knew that, didnt' you. When you peeked into my life ... when you were sure you had tricked me."

First, hit him with guilt, which while nonsense to Raoul, was an effective lever against the law man and his self-perceptions.

"Yes," Raoul continued, "I figured it out ... but you also know I am not a man of petty vengence."

"Why? I want to know why."

Now, to make his play.

"Preston, you are a nova of great possibilities. You have made great strides in understanding yourself, as well as one that generally advances the cause of the novas world-wide."

Preston deflected any of the flattery, but that wasn't Raoul's barb.

"But ... you hold yourself back. You feel guilt, which is not deserved. You allowed your guilt over your failed relationship to tie you down in your dealings with the rest of the world. You wanted her dead ... and you felt guilt for that, as well."

The glare on Preston's face faded to one of dazed confusion.

"Now you have to deal with that, free of any residual guilt for things in your past."

Raoul delivered that so calmly, so deadpan, that Preston could eek no emotion from it.

"Craig," now was the moment to twist the barb, "I didn't kill her ... you have made enemies enough who want to see you hurt, if not dead."

"You told them how," the anger was back.

"I am one of them, Craig. You know that. You've seen that. You had no illusions about who I was when you decided to play your game with me. You know time, but I know people ... and I applaud your gambit. It was well played. You know more about me than almost anyone else still alive. When you came to me, you knew there would be a price for your quest. It has been payed. We are even on that matter."

Raoul knew that Preston would understand that there was no motive for the Count to tell the rest of the Teragen what Preston had accomplished. Preston had been forced to pay a price for that knowledge and there was no point in sharing with less temperate souls what other knowledge had been exchanged.

"You knew they would kill her," Preston tried one more desperate time.

"We are in a war, Preston. You see that clearly. You want to participate and you know there will be casulaties. Neither of us get an absolute choice in who lives and who dies. We do the best we can."

Raoul felt the worms of his thoughts burrowing through Preston's mental defenses more surely than any telepath could.

Preston did want her dead, even though he loved her once.

He had been prepared to sacrifice for the war he saw coming.

He had known the risks and taken them anyway ... and his wife had paid the price.

And finally,

He was secretly liberated by her death to do more. The ties of his old life faded away with her death. The Family had moved on. His son was a nova now, too. He had abandoned everyone else who had been unable to keep up ... except his wife. Now she was gone, and he was free.

Around the rock Selena Ramirez and Neil Preston came looking. Selena looked ready to kill, while the boy looked afraid ... though probably not for himself.

Preston felt them too. He turned around and walked toward them.

"Time to go," Preston muttered.

Selena looked shocked and glared toward the terat. Neil looked relieved that his father hadn't committed murder.

Raoul waited calmly. Selena was more of an unknown quantity and restraining her until help came might prove difficult.

"Selena, it is time to go," Preston repeated sadly.

With one more threatening glare for the man she loved, Selena warped reality and the three left rapidly. Preston did not look back.

Some days later, Preston sat down with Neil.

"Tell me about your memories of Mother," he began. Preston neslted in those warm memories of a son for his mother. He drank deeply one last time from that happiness. When Neil finished, he was done. He let the past fade and turned once more fully to the future.

Raoul Orzaiz had beaten him. He had hurt him to his core, but he couldn't help feeling greatful ... which was probably the terat's goal all along. Preston hated Raoul for that, but he wished he could hate him for his wife's death. He knew there would be a repayment for that debt of unacknowledged gratitude, and he hated that too.

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