Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 12:05:46 -0000 From: Ernie <email@example.com> Subject: Old Age Chapter 10 Enlightenment was a slightly longer process for Sven, yet even he found it impossible to share another's thoughts and still maintain a wall of prejudice. It took about a week of sifting through the lives of others before his epiphany came about. Ivan pushed it along, gently prodding, bringing forth the memories and the understanding needed to cement the bond - and in the end it was as Ivan predicted. Sven now saw JT through different eyes and felt ashamed at his first reaction to the man. He tried to explain his feelings to Chet, his fear and anger - the betrayal he felt as he lie bleeding in a ditch. "I've wasted a good part of my life in hating blacks, and yet I realize now that I brought it on myself. I was 21 when I met Kinakut, he was only 17 a cabin boy, and so beautiful I fell in love with him. I pushed myself on the boy, actually you might say I forced him to become my lover - I saw only what I felt for him, not how he felt about being used. God, what a fool I was - and what a fool I've been all these years since." "Don't worry, Jason understands. We all do. When it comes to love we have very little control of our emotions. Hate too is another unbound passion, but we can work through if we try. Does it still upset you that Jason is black?" "No, not at all, but I'm embarrassed. He must think I'm a poor excuse for a human being." "I doubt that. Jason also had to work through prejudice - in fact we all have in one way or another. There is no perfect understanding anywhere except between the five of us. Look, Jason went with Maria shopping today, but when he comes back you might want to sit down and talk to him. I think you'll feel better if you do." Perhaps it was Chet's memories of the first night he spent with Sven, the ones he shared so intimately with Jason, or maybe they simply clicked, whatever the reason, the bond between Jason and Sven became extremely close. Over the next couple of weeks it was not uncommon to see the two off by themselves talking animatedly, laughing, and enjoying each other's company and more than once they had been sighted in some quiet terrace bower holding hands. "Do you feel left out?" Ivan asked, as he and Chet watched the two again wander away, lost in conversation. "No, not really. I'm glad it's happening for them. I envy them, of course, but I don't feel abandoned and definitely not left out. If you care to look, you'll see that's not been the case." Chet said, grinning. "Well, as long as you're not upset." Ivan said, pulling a notebook from his shirt pocket. In the process his pen slipped out and fell to the ground. He reached for it and a pained look crossed his face. "What's the matter?" Chat asked. "It's just a catch in my back, I guess. I had this couple of times up north, it goes away in a minute." He leaned back in the chair and the pain soon passed. "We've got two weeks yet before we head north again, but we need to get organized. First off we have to develop contingency plans for each of us in case we really screw up. There's also Maria and Jose to think about. We might be gone for quite awhile." "OK, then let's set up a fund that will cover the lease for the next year, and wages of course. We'll need to beef up to Maria's household account too - utilities, license tags for the car any other fees you can think of, and we'll have to get an attorney to make sure everything is legal." "Yes," Ivan replied, "But I'm wondering if we also shouldn't hire someone to stay here with Maria." "Are you worried about break- ins?" "No, not really, but I just don't feel right about leaving her alone when she can't use a telephone." "OK, then get one of Jose's grandchildren to stay with her - they're here three days a week anyway. The 12 year old, Teresa - she's a smart little girl and she and Maria hit it off fine, in fact Maria's teaching her to sketch." "That's a good idea. I'll talk to Jose and maybe have one of the older boys stay too. Phillip is almost 16, I'll bet he could use some extra money." "OK, the domestic stuff is settled. Now what about those contingency plans you were talking about?" "I'm thinking extra passports for everyone and enough cash and credit cards to keep each of us mobile in case we get into a jam. If trouble develops we'll have to spread out and go in different directions. The cards I've already arranged for, the passports will be Jason's job when we get back in the States." "And?" "That's it really. If anything happens, we scatter, each to a pre-determined place and then regroup." "Some contingency plan! I like our main scenario better - you know - the one where nothing goes wrong? I'd also like it better if you'd stay a thousand miles away from Washington and just directed us. We can do the legwork. You shoot us the passwords, Jason directs and we can destroy practically everything written about us. You don't need to be there." "Yes I do! Until I can read Fennman, I have to be on the scene. We're sure the FBI and CIA are covered, but Fennman might have other agents or agencies involved and we wouldn't even know that until we got nailed. No, I've got to be there. They'll all have to be erased at the same time - in layers, from the center to the outer edge of each group, but Fennman remains the keystone. Also, we still have no idea of how many at the Institute are directly involved. There could be dozens." The planning went on for a week. During that time Chet saw another instance or two of Ivan's back pain, but again thought nothing of it. However, on the morning three days before their scheduled departure, Ivan was in such pain he couldn't get out of bed and Bart came rapping on Chet's door, "He hurting bad. It just came on all of a sudden. I'm getting worried." When Chet got to the room, Ivan's face was grimaced in pain. He was trying to sit, but Bart eased him back into the mattress. "Damn," he said, "I've never had anything hurt like that before. It's like being stabbed with a knife." He tried breathing deeply and each breath hurt, but finally the pain subsided. "Whoa, now that was a bad one!" "I thought you said it was just a sprain? That sure doesn't act like any pulled muscle I've ever seen. Does it still hurt?" "No, it's OK now." "You just lie still - I'm going to call a doctor." "Don't bother, I've got a hunch I know what it is." "What?" "Liver cancer. I remember my Dad suddenly having this same kind of pain." "Well then I guess we're not going to watch you grow old after all, are we? Bart, get a transfusion kit. We're going to take care of this right now!" "NO! Not yet. I'll use painkillers if I have to." "For God's sake, why?" "Because I can't! What if I have more than liver cancer? I've always wondered why my ESP developed so suddenly. What if a transfusion wipes it out - where the hell would that leave us? No, I can't chance it until we've put everyone off our trail." "So that's why you've been holding off." Bart interjected. "Why didn't you tell me?" "I'm sorry, I figured eventually Fennman would fade away and it wouldn't make any difference." "Cancer runs in your family," Bart chided, "your Dad and two of your uncles died of it, and you kept assuring me it was only a pulled muscle. I though we didn't have any secrets between up?" "Well Jesus, Bart, I didn't realize it until just a few minutes ago," Ivan protested, "I still can't be sure, but I do know that we don't have time to fool with doctors and biopsies." Chet sorted through his memories of Ivan's father and saw that the man had lived only a short time after the onset of the disease. More importantly, the last weeks of his life had been spent in a drug-induced haze. All three men arrived at the same conclusion at almost at the same moment. "We'll have to change our plans." Chet said quietly, "If it's cancer, you won't be able to handle a long campaign. You had better call Jason and Sven, we'll need a war council." Chapter 11 Walter Fennman awoke drenched in sweat. Fumbling for the bottle of antacid tablets on his nightstand he chewed down two of the cherry flavored pills, then two more - his stomach was churning again, this time almost to the point of puking. For the last year he had suffered from a singular recurring nightmare. Decoviak! The man had searched him out and was stealing his will away - turning him into a mindless robot. It was always the same - Decoviak's face emerging from the mist of a fog shrouded city-street, then the slow agonizing torture of knowing that his mind was fading. Shaken, Fennman sat up, dropping his feet to the floor. The reassuring texture of the carpet underfoot helped dispel the nightmare. The lights were dimmed, but never out. He hadn't slept in a darkened since the dreams began. Fennman's fears were compounded by the fact that no one had uncovered a single lead to the three men's whereabouts. It left him afraid of every new face that he encountered - especially new faces that turned up at the Institute. He insisted on being briefed about the hiring of each new employee, even grounds keepers he might never come in contact with. All employees that lived outside the confines of the Institute were now scrutinized by camera as they passed through the gauntlet of new gates, and every employee, regardless of status was scanned by retinal viewer before allowed to enter any building in the complex. As much as possible, all outside contact was limited to camera or phone. That went for security staff as well, none were exposed to random scrutiny - no one walked the perimeter, the fence was protected by sensors with multiple redundancy. He had taken every precaution and still the nightmare invaded his sleep. Latham, Decoviak and Ludlow. The three men haunted him, but he knew precisely where the danger lay - Decoviak. The other two were medical wonders, possible the mostly valuable discoveries since the world began and they remained hidden by Decoviak's mind blanking power. If he were dead the other two would be easy to find. The number of agents involved practically assured their capture. Unable to sleep, Fennman arose and wandered into the apartment's small kitchen. There he set up the coffee maker, then decided on a shower - it was almost 5 AM anyway. In two hours he was scheduled for a phone conference with John Eritine, his head of security. Like all of Fennman's agents, Eritine went through frequent and rigorous testing in search of the slightest hint that he might have been 'washed' or compromised. Yesterday had been Eritine's monthly ordeal. Today John would be hard pressed to stay focused and on track and tomorrow too for that matter. The drugs took at least 48 hours to dissipate. The testing ruined Eritine's effectiveness for three days month, but it was the only safe way. Fennman now had thirty agents in the field and as each returned from assignment he or she was subjected to the same tests as Eritine and the other employees at the Institute. The Carson Center in Arlington had been specifically designed for this purpose. So far, nothing - not a blip, not a single instance of outside tampering to his people, and although his employees minds appeared untouched Fennman stilled worried. He couldn't demand the same tests of the CIA or the FBI. Who knew how far Decoviak had penetrated those two organizations. Of course the FBI was pretty much out of the loop now anyway. All they were willing to do was pass on surveillance information on possible terrorists- a lot of help that was. He had originally painted Decoviak as a terrorist, but it no longer shook trees at the FBI. The fiasco in Arizona had caused so much grief that the Bureau were no longer amenable to his requests for manpower. Not even Senator Davis, using all his sway on the appropriations committee could bring them back on line. Once burned, twice shy - about the only contact left between the Institute and Bureau was with a liaison team, Turner and Harris, and Fennman couldn't be sure that those two hadn't already been compromised. He hated having those men coming to the Institute. He had never spoke to them personally, the idea of two untested agents snooping around set his nerves on edge. Outside of his own people, Fennman had not met with anyone face to face in 6 months and he intended to keep it like that. Still he wished to God there was some way he could force testing on both the Agency and the Bureau. He would feel a lot safer. . . John Eritine had a difficult time keeping track of what Fennman was talking about. The testing and the drugs had left feeling like shit. It was getting so he dreaded the thought of that fucking monthly examination and yet he couldn't do anything about it, not even complain to Fennman. The man was crazy, a regular loony-tune, hiding out in that little apartment like some latter day Howard Hughes and all because he was scared of one man. Shit, no one had heard of Decoviak in years, not since Oklahoma City. Ludlow walked out of the county jail, all the Mexican bank accounts got cleaned out and the 3 men vanished. Hell, the they could be anywhere - Europe, the Far East, Australia. As sure as water runs down hill, those men had gone to earth and it appeared as though they had found somewhere damn remote to do it. Why Fennman was so fucking paranoid about three guys on the run, made no sense to Eritine. Scared shitless that his old agents were compromised, Fennman had gotten rid of every one. Some he fired, others he moved to jobs where they no longer had contact with the Institute, and those few who knew too much, the ones he couldn't simply ditch, Fennman eliminated. Eritine himself had taken out Katz. One could almost say that doing Katz was how John qualified as the new head of security. Of course, that was back before all this testing bullshit started . . . Even zapped as he was, Eritine caught at least part of Fennman's tirade: He was demanding that the FBI liaison team be kept away from the Institute. "Meet them somewhere else, hire a hotel room or office space. I don't want them here anymore." The man is getting nuttier everyday, Eritine thought, but he was careful not to voice that opinion. Crazy or not, Fennman was one dangerous Motherfucker. ##### The five drove to Mirida, caught the first available flight to Mexico City and there waited several hours for the non-stop to New York City. They didn't tarry in the Big Apple, instead they rented a large, comfortable SUV from Hertz and headed for Virginia. Since Ron Harris' assignment to the liaison team, Ivan had been checking him daily, trying desperately to get a lead on Fennman. In fact Harris' present assignment had been Ivan's doing. The trip to Washington had proved fruitful at least in one respect, Ivan now had a handle on FBI assignments, not that it helped much, except in the one instance of the liaison team. One thing Ivan did learn was that Fennman was currently in Virginia, Alexandria to be exact, Fennman's representative had inadvertently exposed that, but where in Alexandria was anyone's guess. Ivan carefully seeded Ron's mind into looking for clues, especially on those occasions when he and Turner visited the Institute. Unhappily, nothing leading to Fennman turned up. Erik Lance, Fennman's front man at the Institute, hovered over the two FBI men from the time they arrived until he escorted them back through the gate. Ron had little chance to snoop. The men rented the only furnished place they could find, a two bedroom townhouse in an upper class neighborhood. The rooms were tiny and Chet was completely stunned by the cost. "We could live at Casa Del Sol for a year for what this cracker box costs a month!" He exclaimed. Jason laughed, "Remember the old real estate clich‚: Location, location, location? Well, if the Casa were sitting on this spot, we might be able to afford Maria's cottage, but I wouldn't lay odds on it." They settled in the best they could. Ivan looked tired and they were all hungry; carry out seemed the best option at the moment. With a KFC and a Chinese place within a mile of the townhouse, cooking could be held to a minimum, just drinks and the kind of stuff that goes from the freezer to the microwave. That night they dined from a double bucket of chicken, several quarts of mashed potatoes with gravy, hot rolls and coleslaw and while it was a long way from the spicier flavors they were used to, no one complained. The next morning Ivan had another bout of pain, not quite as severe as the one in Mexico, but bad enough. It was time to see a doctor. It took awhile finding a physician with an appointment opening. Ivan wasn't particular who he saw, any doctor that had hospital affiliation and who could write a prescription would do and Dr. Cole proved to be more than adequate. Ivan searched the man's memories, finding which pain drugs were the most effective and which caused the least disorientation. Cole wrote out the prescriptions and forgot all about Ivan. He wouldn't remember even seeing this odd patient, unless Ivan, needing the good doctor's aid for some reason, spoke a certain phrase to him. Ivan now had his doctor, one who would, if need be, make house calls although why he would be willing to do such a thing would always remain a mystery to Doctor Cole. >From the moment they arrived in Virginia, Ivan spent nearly all his time reading those people who knew Fennman personally. With a little nudge he was able to get these acquaintances to think about Fennman. Senator Davis, for one was more than a little irked at the man. At a recent appropriations hearing, Fennman had failed to appear, instead he sent a flunky to face the committee. Davis was barely able to get the Institute's funding passed - Fennman certainly had a lot of gaul, he thought, leaving him out on a limb like that. . . Ivan left Davis and moved on. Checking on Harris he discovered that the up coming liaison meeting had been switched from the Institute to an office in downtown Washington. "It's weird, Guys," Ivan said, "I've checked everyone I read at Davis's fund raiser last August. At least twenty people there knew Fennman personally, yet no one has seen him in months." "Maybe he's not here after all." Chet commented. "Oh, he's still here!" Jason replied, "Remember what Ron saw?" Jason was talking about the slight slip that Erik Lance had made the last time Ron was in his office. One of the medical staff rushed in and handed a paper to Lance saying that Doctor Fennman wanted these results as soon as possible. Lance arose, walked to the fax machine, inserted the paper and punched in a number. From where Ron sat, he couldn't see the entire LED readout, but he did see the prefix and that prefix was local. "I agree." Ivan said. "He's here and Erik Lance knows where. What I have to do is read Lance. I've nudged Ron and several others to make inquiries on the man but he seems to be a cipher. Ron couldn't even turn up a phone number or an address on the guy. Maybe he lives at the Institute. I think we're in luck though. Ron just got notice that his next meeting with Lance will be held in Washington. At last, a chance to get a handle on Fennman. It's about time, wouldn't you say?" It was on aThursday ten days later when the meeting took place. The sky was overcast and rain threatened. Chet pulled the SUV into the office building parking lot on 22nd St. while they waited for Ron and Turner to arrive for their 2:30 appointment with Lance. Ivan checked on Harris and saw that the agents were only minutes away. "OK, Sven and I are going to head for the lobby. I want to be on the 5th floor, right near that office when Ron arrives - maybe I can catch sight of Lance from the hallway - I would rather he not notice me at all, but if I can't get a look at him that way, I barge into the office 'by mistake'." "Why even worry about that guy," Chet asked, "You can just blank his mind, make him forget he ever saw you." "Yeah, I could, but think about Ann Arbor and Doc Conner. I made him forgetful too and Fennman's team of shrinks restored his memory in a week. I'd rather do this so that Lance has nothing to remember, just in case. . ." Ivan missed seeing Lance from the hallway, Harris and Turner were met by a secretary who ushered the two into an inner office. Ivan was frustrated. Through Ron's eyes he again viewed Erik Lance's bland countanance . The man was colorless, ash blond hair and eyebrows. Lashes so white they seemed nonexistant and eyes the color of over bleached denim. As if this wasn't enough, the fellow's skin carried the unhealthy palor of a dungeon dweller. The guy's teeth had more color than his face, in comparison they appeared almost yellow. Lance was a chain smoker and he had a Brooklyn accent that grated on Ivan's nerves even though it came filtered through Ron's conciousness. The meeting haden't even started when Ivan's plan went awry. A pain so horrible he though he had been stabbed, shot through his back, putting an end to any thought of barging onto Lance's office. He collapsed in pure agony, unable to do anything but roll on the floor. Sven realizing what was happening, quickly scooped Ivan up and carried him back to the elevator. The pain just wouldn't quit, it was excruciating, never in his life had he experienced anything like it. Sven was talking to his, but he couldn't make out what he was saying - the pain - the pain - it overrode everything, even his ESP. Ivan clenched his jaw trying to keep from crying out - it seemed like he couldn't breath. A pressure in his head made his eyes feel like they were going to explode -every point of light had a halo around and then mercifully the elevator faded to gray. Ivan awoke to findDoctor Cole hovering over him. An IV slowly dripped and he realized that he was back in the townhouse. Mentally, he reached for the Bart, Chet, Jason and Sven. They were all here, sitting in the next room, fretting. Chet was saying that they should have started the transfusion and worried about the consequences later. Bart and Sven agreed, but Jason insisted on waiting until Ivan could decide. <Guess I screwed up, huh Chet?> "He's awake!" Chet cried, leaping up and heading for the bedroom.The others followed and crowded into the small room. "How are you feeling?" Bart asked, worry painted plainly on his face, "Any more pain?" "No, but my head is buzzing a bit - narcotics?" "Yeah, morophine. Look, Ivan, Doctor Cole say's the cancer is spreading like wildfire - Just by pressing on your abdomin and he can now feel lumps." <You've got to have the transfusion!> "Doctor, how long have I got? I want the truth." "A few weeks, maybe less. Without a biopsy, I can't determine which type of cancer you have, but it is obviously very fast moving. There's been a major enlargement to your liver since I checked you 2 weeks ago." <Well, that cooks our goose, doesn't it.> Ivan projected to the others. <Fennman keeps on truckin' and we have to go into hiding!> Ivan read Doctor Cole and saw that there was little more he could do at present, so he made a few changes in the doctor's memory. Cole packed his bag, rolled down his sleaves and put his jacket on. It wasn't apendicitis after all, merely a case of acute indigestion. The fellow should have just gone to the emergency room. . . "Thank you, Doctor. I really appreciate you coming to my aid like this." Ivan saw that Cole had planned on taking his wife out for a surprise dinner that evening. There was still time, it was early yet, only around 5:00 PM Cole had made the emergency call directly from his office. Flashing the information to Bart, he watched as Bart pulled out his wallet and extracted some bills. "Yes, thank you, Doctor," Bart added, "We don't know what we would have done without you. I'll be around tomorrow to pay the bill, but in the mean time, please accept this token of our appreciation - do something nice for yourself - perhaps take your wife out to dinner." He said as he slipped the bills into the breast pocket of the doctor's coat. Cole smiled. He wasn't in the habit of taking tips, but the young man was so sincere that couldn't refuse. It wasn't until the drive home that he pulled out the money and was shocked to find 4 crisp, one hundred dollar bills. He shook his head. Now, THAT was an expensive case of indigestion! Maybe I should do house calls more often, he thought. "Well, it looks like we won't be making people forget about us. It was a good plan, Jason and if it wasn't for this damn cancer, we'd probably have Fennman located by now." "You keep thinking the transfusion will destroy your ESP, but that is only an assumption." Bart said. "Look, in the shape you're in, there's nothing more you can do here. Let's do the transfusion and see what happens. If you loose it, we'll just keep on moving. There's one thing for sure - we'll all outlive Fennman, all we have to do is stay out of sight." "There is one other option." Jason commented, "Since we don't have time to search for Fennman, Ivan might be able to flush him out." "How?" they all wanted to know. "Ivan, remember what you told us about making people remorsful over past sins?" "Sure, with most folks it's fairly simple. A little nudge, that starts them thinking about their misdeeds, then a little extra push and it starts cascading. Suddenly they feel the need to confess to anyone who will listen. Just like Juan Sanchez." "Exactly. Now what if you did the same thing to all the people you've read here in Washington - not just Senator Davis and that whole bunch, but eveyone in the government that you've read." "But most of those people have nothing to do with Fennman!" Ivan protested. "Some do. Anyway, for this to work, we can't simply pick out known Fennman cohorts. There are hunderds more within the Beltway supporting Fennman whether they know it or not. What we need is a regular flood of people coming forward - enough to distabilize the Institute. Remember, in order for Fennman to stay in business, his backers are calling in favors all the time. Someone votes 'yes' on an Insitute funding proposal and in turn gets a vote for his own personal pork barrel. It's the way Washington works - what we need to do is throw a monkey wrench into those works." Ivan blanched, "Do you know what that would do to the country? Good Lord, I've read half of congress and most of the senate, to say nothing of all the those agency people. There are no squeeky clean politicians here, all have been stained in one way or another - it sort of goes with being in politics. Hell, there are enough skeletons in the halls of congress to sink the whole ship of state. Jason, it might bring down the government." "I have a bit more faith in the American people than that." Jason replied, "Yeah, there'll be a shake up, but belive me, the union will hold together. Besides, rooting some crooks out of Washington can't be all bad." "But it's not just crooks who'll suffer! I can't make anyone selectivly remorseful, once started, the cascade reaches every part of the personality - every blessed thing will come out - infidelities - cribbing on some test in college - little peccadilloes that has nothing to do with a man's ability or fitness for a job. Shit, the media would have a field day." "It's the only alternative I can come up with. It's pretty obvious that you don't have the time or stamina for anything else. It's either this, or take the transfusion and hope that you're wrong about what it may do to you. . ."