Table of Contents [Report This]
Chapter or Story Chapter or Story
To hell with this, thought Jarod. My life's not ending in a Cessna due to a hysterical madman.
The rescue had gone fairly well for the first few hours after making contact with Angelo. They made it through the sewer to the pier without being detected, then away in the car to the Maryland airstrip 40 minutes away. Angelo had remained silent and subdued for the entire trip, his eyes more and more unfocused the further they got from the Centre. Paul kept casting nervous glances at him, as if some very alarming emotional waves were emanating from his cousin, but kept mostly silent himself. They had gotten on the plane and given away the car with a couple of hours of darkness to spare, and headed west. Jarod had access to several light planes across the U.S., but the plan was to fly this one across the entire continent if possible, with several stops for fuel and at least one sleep break. He hoped to make it to Portland by the evening of the second day.
Then dawn came, and the best-made plans went to hell.
At the first flicker of sunlight over the horizon, Angelo popped up from his resting state -- Jarod was sure he wasn't actually sleeping -- and put his hands up around his ears as if the universe itself was screaming at him. Then, before Paul could tackle him, hurled himself at the windshield, in process collapsing on Jarod and all controls and instrumentation. The plane immediately began to nosedive as the two men tried to pull Angelo out of the pilot's area. They both practically had to sit on him to clear access to the instrumentation. Paul finally got an armlock on him face down on the floor, as Jarod grabbed the control to pull up the pitch.
"Just keep him down on the floor! We can sedate him after I stabilize us!"
Jarod managed to level them off again, then decided to risk the autopilot for a few minutes to assist Paul in restraining Angelo. Fortunately conditions were clear and they had already passed by the busy DC metropolitan area. Together they dragged a still-screaming Angelo to one of the passenger seats. Jarod dug around in his backpack for the drugs and syringes, and quickly opted for the more hefty barbiturate since he was still uncontrollably flailing around. After about a minute the drug kicked in, and both Angelo's muscles and mind started to relax.
Jarod looked at Paul. "What happened, what set him off?"
"The sun I think. We can all feel the energy pouring out of it, but for him ..." He paused to gently touch Angelo's face, to get a superficial reading. "He feels too much, so even the sun is too much to handle. It hurts him, even inside away from the windows."
Jarod frowned at that. Neither Miriam or Annalise had ever mentioned the sun having an impact on their abilities before. "You know how to take basic vitals, right? Give me his heart rate and respiration every five minutes, I need to get back to the pilot seat."
Paul nodded as Jarod went back up front. "How long can we keep him under like this? All day?"
"That's not going to be very safe. I'm going to need some real anesthesia if it looks like we have to keep him completely unconscious. If you think his hyperactive abilities are the root of the problem, though ... we should probably try the ketamine. With a little valium to keep the dreams down."
"Oh goody, k-hole hallucinations. This day just keeps getting better and better."
"I think I can prevent that with proper dosing. I think."
The capacity of ketamine and other NMDA antagonists to suppress the Wallace's telepathic abilities was discovered in the 1970s by a "free-spirited recreational self-experimenter," as Annalise had put it. She refused to say which relative it was, although based on the stories Jarod had heard, he had a hunch. Paul volunteered to be a guinea pig earlier in the week to test out the rumor, which had proved to be correct in a delusional catatonia sort of way. Jarod found out early on that they required on a quarter of the normal dose to produce an effect, after Paul was unexpectedly rendered unconscious and drooling from a shot intended to merely produce a mild high. When he came out of it, however, his telepathic sense was suppressed for over an hour. Jarod now had practically a gallon of ketamine stored in the plane, pilfered under the guise of being a veterinarian.
Jarod let the other drug wear off a bit, and when Angelo began to stir slightly, put the plane back on autopilot and prepared several syringes of the ketamine/diazepam mixture. A minuscule dose to start; he'd given cats bigger ketamine shots before.
After the injection the two men stepped back, tensely evaluating the trembling form in front of them. "Maybe I should do a scan to see what's going on in ..." Paul began.
Angelo suddenly popped up, wide awake. "Hi!" he said.
"Um ... hi to you too, Angelo?" He grinned at Jarod in response and grabbed his hand.
quieter machine sun not banging more words many more pretty words
"Well he's certainly more talkative. Here, you monitor him while I fly, if the sun starts banging again, give him another dose." Jarod pulled on Angelo's arm, intending to hand him off. Angelo's grin didn't budge, but without warning he grabbed four of the syringes off the tray, ripped off the caps and stabbed Paul in the leg with all of them at once.
"WHAT THE FU... oh god dammit, I'm seeing rainbows again." And Paul slipped under, drooling again.
Jarod sighed, while Angelo beamed at him. Three hours of transcontinental flying down, only thirty-plus to go.
At two am Tuesday they finally made it into the Hillsboro, Oregon airstrip, after five fueling and Crackerjack stops, two more sun-related freakouts, twenty-three ketamine shots, one unexpected Midwest early winter storm, three diversions from the flight plan, and one six-hour afternoon power nap for the pilot in Laramie, Wyoming. Joan, Cathy and Annalise were all waiting for them at Jarod's rented storage spot for the Cessna. Jarod and Paul both looked as if they had been forcibly sleep-deprived for weeks, stumbling out of the plane with their three-day beards into the darkness. Paul took one look at his family and muttered, "Relief brigade. Thank God. Someone wake me up when we get to the house or in a couple of days, whichever comes first." And he crashed in the back of their dingy van without another glance at back his charge.
Angelo tentatively poked his head out the door, looking at his relatives with mild interest. Jarod silently thanked the universe they had made it with a few hours of darkness left, so he wasn't completely drugged. Joan walked up to her son and put her arms around him for the first time in over thirty years. Angelo's mother normally had a rather irascible personality, but for once she seemed to be filled with nothing but care and love. Angelo began to appear confused and a little overwhelmed, but Joan reached up and stroked his face and hummed some sort of tune that he clearly recognized. He closed his eyes and leaned into her, appearing to absorb and desire the touch of another human being for the first time in decades. Neither one of them said a word, but they simply stood there holding each other.
It was impossible for Jarod to take in the scene without breaking down. He felt the love and acceptance and memory, but he couldn't help but think of the lack of all of the above for himself. Happiness for his old friend and sadness both looped into his brain in a self-pitying mix, and the tears began to fall. Annalise noticed his distress and took his hand.
Don't worry, we'll find your family too, Jarod.
He looked at her then, and realized that there was in fact love and acceptance for him as well, and tried to shake off his ridiculous, selfish emotions. You're my family too, a part of it at least. Jarod raised her hand to her lips and kissed it.
Everyone stood there for a few minutes, letting Joan and Angelo stand there as long as they needed to. It seemed they might be mindtalking, and Jarod wondered if she was able to get through to lucidity better than Paul. Presently she walked over to them, never letting go of her son's hand.
"So, Jarod. You look more like a vagabond than a scientist right now. Are we still doing this ludicrous break-in? We've never had one these scan-thingies to do a Healing before."
Annalise answered for him. "We've never tried to reverse decades-old brain damage before. I could really use an MRI before we begin. We should do it now, while we're all up here in Portland and it's still dark." She motioned at Jarod. "If everyone's still up for it."
Jarod glanced wistfully at Paul already snoozing in the car, and took a deep breath. "Let's do it. As long as I don't have to drive."
Annalise drove them up Oregon Health & Sciences University campus, locally referred to as Pill Hill for its precarious position overlooking the city. OHSU had several state-of-art MRIs available for clinical use, but the one that attracted Jarod was an older 1.5T model that had been semi-retired and banished to research in the neurology department. His prep work for the Pretend -- really a mini one as this barely counted in the annals of his various personas, but it would be embarrassing to be caught now -- indicated that the research MRI, unlike the facilities at the hospital proper, was virtually never in use at three in the morning. As a result it would be easy to sneak in in the middle of the night posing as sleep researchers, without running into any actual scientists or physicians who would probably know better.
Jarod had already arranged a working key card to get into the building, virtually the only security as far as anyone could see. The entire research building seemed deserted that time of night. Paul didn't even wake up and Cathy opted to stay in the car, but the other three padded along behind him as Jarod grabbed a lab coat and authoritatively walked into the control room like he had done it a hundred times. It was decidedly ... strange to have co-conspirators on a Pretend. Even stranger than having someone along on the break-in to the Centre; at least he and Paul had rehearsed together, so it was no longer a foreign concept.
He had everyone remove all metal objects in a prep room, then booted up the machine. For Angelo he pulled out an IV set and propofol to knock him out entirely. The electromagnetic radiation in the machine would be agony to one of them awake, literally like being repeatedly stabbed in the head for the ten minute scan. Even those in the control room would get a dose, and Jarod wondered how well Joan and Annalise would be able to take it. He took the propofol over to Joan and Angelo, sitting on an exam table, and knelt down down beside him. "You need to go to sleep for this, okay? Joan will be right outside." Angelo spaced out at him, inscrutable and unpredictable as ever, and he glanced at Joan briefly before going ahead. She gave him a slight nod, and he inserted the needle.
Once he started the protocol, Annalise lasted all of twenty seconds before running from the room, retching. Which left Jarod alone with Joan, for the first time ever. She stared him down with her icy blue eyes, arms crossed while evaluating him, and he had to wonder if her skull was made of steel to withstand the EM waves pulsing through the room.
"Why not you," she finally said.
"Why not me what?"
"Why did they damage my son, and leave you alone to function perfectly fine? Well, as fine as a pathological liar can function."
He stared back at her, unflinching. "I got lucky. No other reason." A strange thought, for he rarely considered anything about his childhood to be fortunate. But compared to Angelo, he had simply won a roll of the dice. Another name penned on the red file intake form, and his entire life would have gone differently.
Joan diverted her gaze away, unable to stand the sight him any longer.
The scan finished an interminable nine minutes later, and Jarod pulled Angelo out, checked his vitals and withdrew the catheter. They would have to wait another half hour at least for Angelo to wake up before heading out. Once the magnet was off, Annalise came wobbling back in, looking like she needed a vicodin or three. They pulled up the results of the scan and began examining different regions in detail, while waiting for the patient to wake up.
"Jesus," breathed Annalise. "It's like Swiss cheese in there."
A vast swath of the left hemisphere of Angelo's brain was pockmarked with tiny fluid-filled lesions. The damage extended all the way from the hypothalamus up through the temporal-parietal sections of cortex. The major language centers of the brain were right in middle of the destruction.
"Have you ever seen anything like this? It's hard to believe his gross motor functions aren't affected."
"No. I'll have to take it all home and study it, do some research. There is a lesion in Area 44, that could affect fine motor skills. He does have some trouble with that," Jarod responded.
"There are a couple in Broca's, that helps explain the speech issues. Also some in the hippocampus and amygdala, so maybe long-term memory and emotional affect?"
Joan came up behind them and leaned on Annalise's shoulder. "I'm glad you two are having fun and all with your little puzzles, but is there anything here that helps us? That is why we dragged ourselves up here and risked getting arrested, I believe. Do you even have a notion where to start?"
Annalise considered it. "The experiment happened when he was eight, right?" Jarod nodded. "So why are these lesions still so prominent? With a child there should have been some plasticity, so why didn't the brain heal itself or at least reroute a lot of these functions? There's something more basic going on here, more subtle than the speech." She flipped through the image slices, down to the lower, more primitive regions. "The hypothalamus. The resolution's not that great but there's a blob of damage over both V2 and V3. That might affect both REM and non-REM sleep. How often did he sleep when you were growing up?"
"I'm not sure I've ever seen him spontaneously sleep, although I have seen him faking it. You'll have to ask him when he comes to."
"Never? What about the plane ride here? That was over forty hours, Jarod, he must have slept some."
"He had a lot of valium in his system so it's hard to use that as an example, but nope. No sleep that I saw. Kept us on our toes, that's for sure."
Annalise seemed thunderstruck by this, and even Joan looked interested for once. "Yes. That's your starting point, Annalise. The mind cannot heal without sleep. If we can fix that, I can chip away at the other problems over time."
At the mention of "over time," something suddenly occurred to Jarod, a small fact that somehow he had never thought of or asked about before. Joan was moving to Wallace West to be with her son. Permanently. He couldn't help but groan inwardly.