Saturday, February 26, 2005

Fiction: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Seventeen

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 at the bottom of this entry.

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: Power

Rachel didn’t answer me directly. “Do you realize that these are John’s Physics 101 notes? I’d know his handwriting anywhere. After today, he’ll probably never teach again. At least, not at Syracuse.”

“I suppose not,” I said. “It’s only fair, after the way he’s behaved.” Even if I did benefit from it, I added silently to myself.

“Right. Fair. The man did lose his wife, you know.”

“Yes. Sorry. I do know,” I said.

“You know what else is fundamentally unfair?” she said, her thin voice rising. “It’s unfair that I had to manufacture my own fake white light expressway to Heaven, instead of finding a real one somewhere.”

Rachel’s sudden passion surprised me, especially since she had blithely expressed nearly the opposite opinion back at the dorm. “I thought you were in no hurry to get to Heaven,” I said. “Isn’t that what you told me earlier?”

“Well, yes,” she admitted. “But I’d like to at least have the option. As it is, I’m just stuck.”

I nodded in sympathy. “It could still happen. If there is a Heaven, I’m sure you’ll get there eventually. The question is, what are you going to do in the meantime?”

“Oh, that. I’m coming with you.”

“Good,” I said.

I stood still as Rachel walked over, turned around and backed into me. For a moment I saw nothing but sparks and colored light. Then she disappeared inside me, making me feel more complete somehow.

Let’s go, she said.

I told the others I would try to disrupt the power to the lab from here, I replied. Do you mind?

Not at all. Sounds like a sensible precaution to me.

I’m glad you approve. I leaned forward, then, until I was hovering on my stomach, about an inch above the floor. Then I reached down and “swam” through the floorboards.

The space between the floors was a two feet high maze of dust, ducts and multicolored wires. Most of the wires led to the fluorescent light fixtures, but there were also heavy cables carrying power to the lab equipment. I could feel them, humming with power. Everything led off toward a transformer or circuit box (I was going to have to learn more about electrical engineering!) in the south wall.

Below us, I could just barely hear Grayson and the two cops, but not what they were saying.

How are you going to do this? Rachel asked.

First, I’m going to siphon some of this off for our use, I replied. Then I’ll set up feedback to overload the wiring.

I reached into one of the heavy cables, the one that fed the wires to the light fixtures. I could feel the power flowing past me, threatening to suck me along with it. For a moment, I was terribly tempted to let go, to become part of the current instead of just interacting with it.

Don’t! Rachel told me.

I hurriedly traced an alternate path for the uppermost electrons to follow, out of the cable and into me. It felt good, except that it tickled a little. In fact, it felt very good.

Careful! Rachel warned. Don’t overdo it!

Oh, right. When I felt I had as much energy as I could handle and still be me—whatever that meant!—I traced the rest of the electrons’ path, circling back into the same cable, but going the other way. As the channel widened, it became visible to me as a tiny river of lightning that did not fade. I started a second channel and a third, feeding them all back into the main cable. I smelled burning rubber. Then there was a flash, and the cable burned out. I heard Hennigan, Farrell and Grayson yelling below me as the light fixtures buzzed and died.

That was fun, I told Rachel. Now what do we play?

Now that you’re done with your dangerous games, Rachel said disapprovingly, it’s time to catch up with your friends.

I decided to take the third floor hallway back to the stairs, the better to avoid the lab and the people in it. Just standing upright took me most of the way into the classroom where Rachel had waited for me.

What did you tell them about me? Rachel asked.

I told them you were an illusion, meant to fool Dr. John. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? I sort of gathered you don’t want them to know about you.

That’s right.

Why?

For John’s sake, I don’t want anyone here to know that I left with you. Even in Onclemac’s Angland, I don’t want people bothering me with questions. Not yet, anyway. Not when I don’t know the answers myself.

I thought about this as we made our way to the stairwell. So you want me to lie to my friends some more, I said.

Yes, please.

All right. But I hope you change your mind eventually.

We’ll see.

Right. We will, I said. We had reached the bottom of the stairs I walked out a door on the northeast corner of the building, only to find that Harry and Jerry were waiting for me on the Quad, nearer the northwest corner.

I walked over to meet them.

this again.

I think we have two entries left, folks! Well, maybe three.

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 Part Sixteen

1 comment:

ryanagi said...

Excellent...as always. :-)