Picking Up the Pieces

Posted: 30th November 2012 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Single-run ("One off") Stories

Before you read the story below, some backstory about it, which you may or may not care about (and can always skip if you like).

I don’t think there’s been any other chapter or short story I’ve written for this blog that has posed as much of a challenge for me, taken as long to write and required so many tweaks before it finally got posted. For one thing, this is a Doctor Holiday story, and as you know if you’ve been a regular reader, I tend to post those stories within a few days before or after the appropriate holiday. This one was intended to be a Halloween story. Aside from the fact I had trouble figuring out how to progress and finish the story (and was busy with paying work and such), I didn’t get it done. Finally, I realized that I could have it start on Halloween and finish on Thanksgiving, but then still got hung up time-wise and couldn’t quite finish in time.

Then I had the problem that the story just wasn’t *quite* jelling and I didn’t really have an ending for it yet, and so much tinkering later, I finally have the story, more than a week after Thanksgiving and nearly a month after the original date of Halloween. I am ashamed.

I’m also nervous, because in hindsight, I wonder if this story is really a complete story that stands well on its own, or whether it only serves the purpose of giving more insight into Doctor Holiday and providing some foreshadowing of a future storyline that will take place a long while after I finally finish “The Gathering Storm.”

Picking Up the Pieces

By Deacon Blue / Jeffrey Bouley

November 5, 2012

Rotors spun, and thoughts with them, and Cal Furtado wondered which was the greater flurry of activity. As the helicopter set down on the tarmac of McCarran International Airport several miles outside of Las Vegas, though, he realized it was a stupid and frivolous thought.

The helicopter was powering down, and the blades of the rotors were slowing. The noise of them was steadily ramping down already. Quiet was gaining power over the cacophony there.

The thoughts in his head were as tumultuous as ever, though—perhaps more so now that he wasn’t distracted by the sounds and movements of the vehicle that had flown him here.

Here, of all places. Clark County in Nevada. Home to Las Vegas—“Sin City” itself—as well as the more biotech- and computer-focused city of Gryphon. The latter would be his ultimate destination, and it felt wrong somehow to be going there, when so much was happening in New York and New Jersey. In fact, he’d originally been set to fly a charter plane to the Northeast just a few hours from now.

It was roughly a week since Hurricane Sandy had pounded the East Coast and flooded so much of New York and New Jersey, even though it wasn’t a hurricane anymore by that point—not really—more like an amalgamation of weather patterns that had mixed together in a violent and unseemly manner. Many people were still without power as temperatures fell below freezing lately at night, and much of the subway system in New York City was still unusable thanks to flooding, along with most of the traffic tunnels for cars and trucks.

So much damage, and he should be there to oversee things for such a major undertaking, since he wasn’t just a co-founder of Quicksilver Recovery Inc.—along with Eileen Kosume and Jim Castile—but also the chief operating officer and chief information officer. Jim wouldn’t be there, as he had plenty to do as CEO in their Chicago headquarters. But Eileen would. As company president, she tended to shuttle between the two main satellite offices in Connecticut and Southern California anyway. After all, one of Quicksilver’s specialties was cleaning and recovery efforts after big dust-ups between transhumans or after the actions of transhumans against normals, and most of the big transhuman activity tended to be in the Southwest, Northeast and Midwest.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had tapped Quicksilver to help out after Hurricane Sandy struck with Mother Nature’s wrath, as had several insurance companies, and Cal felt that was where he should be. Where the most people were hurting right now and where everything needed to be handled just right, given the billions upon billions of dollars of damage wrought already.

But Eileen would pull the oversight duty for Quicksilver’s portion of the Sandy cleanup, now that Cal had been pulled away and sent to Nevada, after a quick pitstop at the Los Angeles office.

Because just as Quicksilver had a reputation for quick and effective handling of post-transhuman damage, so too did Cal himself have a bit of a reputation for piecing together mysteries almost as well as he handled his COO and CIO duties—a useful skill sometimes when transhuman-related disaster areas were involved.

The devastation in Gryphon—particularly at the city’s only significant casino, Cyberwalk—was a mystery, even five days after the chaos, and people wanted answers as well as relief and rebuilding.

Because it wasn’t just any mystery—not just any disaster—it was one that had signs of transhumans all over it.

* * *

October 31, 2012

The brown cloth strips hugged his face tightly; he almost felt as if they were all that was holding him together. His mind, at least. His personality.

Or, at least, the one he possessed right now.

The sun was still high in these early afternoon hours, with no hint of the impending night, but that would come soon enough. Halloween would arrive in earnest, and there would be revelers. Children wandering the streets of residential neighborhoods in the less tourist-oriented parts of the city and in the outlying suburbs of Las Vegas.

And even more so in Gryphon, the rival to California’s Silicon Valley, for which gambling was an afterthought, and so many families lived, depending on high-tech industries and living in planned communities (But I bet they never planned for me). Living “normal” lives in the more decadent shadow of Las Vegas (But the normals are about to get a visit from Doctor Holiday).

I’m not in Gryphon yet, but I’m meant to be there, he thought. Not now, but soon enough. My legs seem to know what I can’t yet consciously grasp. I have miles to go before I sleep. Before I slumber until the next holiday. For now, I wander Vegas.

Although night hadn’t fallen, this was a city known for partying even during the day, and what better way to party in Sin City for adults and those barely grown—or pretending with fake IDs to be legal—than to dress up in outfits outrageous and garish and often slutty.

Adults young and old up and down the strip, and even some children. Vegas had tried to become more of a family-friendly place on the surface, at least, but the emphasis remained on gambling, drinking, smoking and other vices. Those were what truly paid the bills here. Even in these leaner economic times, there were many people about, dressed normally or in costumes. Simply strolling or on their way to parties or simply trying to locate parties of which they weren’t yet aware.


There’s someone else in here with me, he suddenly realized. I mean, there are always so many voices inside this skull. Or perhaps more accurately, many presences. They didn’t all speak at once; some shouted, some murmured and many spent long stretches silent. Most of them silent, especially now, on a holiday when just one personality would rule.

But there wasn’t just one this time at center stage—not just himself here in ascendance. He could feel another pressing against him. Impatient. Almost fully aware, though not in control. There were never two at once, though. That didn’t make sense. Then again, not all holidays made sense, he considered. There had been other times when things deviated far from the norm, like when that one personality was allowed to hunt for clues as to their original identity on another Halloween. Not all the answers had been revealed. But he had found their original name from before the transformation. From before Doctor Holiday had been born.

Who is this Other? What does he want? Am I going to have to struggle for control tonight? Is he a good guy like me? A neutral? A mischief-maker? A fool? A villain?

He looked around at the passers-by to make sure no one was taking notice of him. Even on Halloween, people didn’t tend to dress as Doctor Holiday, at least not in any realistic fashion. It made people nervous—sometimes it made them panic. So he didn’t want to be seen.

But no one was paying attention to him, so the psychic emanations he was sending out to make himself unnoticed or at least appear innocuous were holding strong. Despite mental distractions of thinking too much and now feeling that other Doctor Holiday in his head, he wasn’t slipping on control of his powers. Perhaps having been in control of this body before and having the same powers again helped—though, to be honest, he didn’t recall much of a learning curve before when he had this body. It seemed every personality mastered his powers quickly upon emergence.

But now that I think about it, there is something odd about me aside from the mysterious second presence right in the forefront of my brain, isn’t there? I don’t think anyone else in this head has ever held the body on more than one occasion. And here I am, doing a second stint.

And then a voice in his mind, as clear as if someone where standing right next to him in conversation: You and me, both, you simple sonofabitch.

* * *

November 5, 2012

The Cyberwalk hadn’t been the only victim of whatever unknown transhumans had rampaged on Halloween; simply the one that was most hard-hit. But because so much had happened there, the mega-casino had been designated at mission control for both the Quicksilver-led recovery efforts and Cal’s sideline investigation.

Cal was certain that multiple transhumans had to have been involved in the deadly mayhem that had ensued Halloween night. Too much had happened, too soon. It must have been coordinated. That had the feel of some terrorist action, and the notion felt right to him. But then there was the fact that only two groups had stepped forward to claim responsibility for Gryphon’s woes that night, and the FBI had quickly shown both terrorist factions to be liars within two days of the disaster.

So, that seemed to rule out anti-American terrorists; violent activist groups that protested capitalism, consumption or greed; and anti-corporate, anti-technology extremists out to strike a blow to Gryphon’s tech-based economy, which was as yet the only one in the world making huge strides on the artificial intelligence front.

Although, while corporate terrorists might be out, could it be more corporate espionage-oriented instead? Cal wondered. If it was meant to hurt Gryphon, and benefit a company outside the state—or a nation with designs on cornering the AI market—then making a mega-casino the central target would make sense, to draw attention away from the true targets.

He shook his head and began to mutter. That theory fell apart as well, because no high-tech companies, AI-related or otherwise in Gryphon, had seen significant violent activity on Halloween. Nor, he discovered after a quick search online, was there any sign of data theft at such companies that would suggest the mayhem at Cyberwalk and elsewhere was for misdirection.

So, then, why did everyone at Cyberwalk begin to see zombies invading the building and trying to eat people? Cal wondered. Why did a zombie apocalypse scenario suddenly arrive out of nowhere, timed so nicely with the newest season of “The Walking Dead” on TV, sending everyone into a panic?

A panic that had people pummeling the undead senseless left and right as the lights in the casino dimmed. Then, within a half-hour, the lighting was back to normal and there were no undead to be seen. Instead, some 240 dead people in the casino and five times that number injured. When the dust had settled and the injured could be questioned, it turned out that some of them had been beaten by people who thought they were zombies. And the victims who had seemed to be voracious undead, in turn, had been attacking or trying to avoid what they thought were zombies.

A complex illusion that—given the wide scale, the number of people affected and the duration—suggested multiple Psi transhumans had been working in concert, Cal reasoned. But how could they have coordinated so well, and how would a bunch of sociopathic Psis have found each other and managed to band together?

Similar zombie scenarios had broken out elsewhere in Gryphon. Also, a few other violence-based illusions took place as well, but with terrorists or other threats in place of the undead. It had gone on all night, until around midnight, in a spiral pattern radiating out from the casino, one event after another. No single illusion subsequent to the Cyberwalk chaos had been as dramatic or as harmful, but all combined, the events of the night had claimed nearly a thousand lives and left more than 5,000 injured.

But it had all centered on the Cyberwalk Casino. It had begun there. And that was the main reason Cal was here, poring over the records and interviews with guests and employees, as well as reviewing security videos.

Systematic. Spiral. Subsequent. Single-minded?

All the events so similar, and all in a row.

What if there is only one transhuman at work here? Maybe one man or woman did this, starting at the casino and then radiating outward. But how? How could one person do so much with their mind, beginning a little after sundown and running all the way until midnight?


It all ended at midnight, almost on the dot. One person. One day. One holiday.

“Oh, shit,” Cal said aloud, wondering if the authorities already knew what he suspected, and were simply keeping it quiet. Then he swore again, and he started the work of sorting through the casino’s security videos all over again.

* * *

October 31, 2012

He was unnerved by the “Other” in his mind—this personality that wasn’t buried deep and merely murmuring or silent like the dozens (Hundreds?) of others were. This Other had spoken to him directly, then went silent. But Doctor Holiday could still sense him nearby—inside—waiting.

Still, unnerved or not, Doctor Holiday had a purpose. He had saved people the last time he had been in control of this body, more than six years ago. Nearly 20 people at a New Year’s Eve party on a yacht who might have burned or drowned otherwise. He’d saved all of them, and then gone back down in his quiescence in Doctor Holiday’s mind with a sense of satisfaction.

There was no obvious threat to deal with now, though. No enemy to defeat. No crisis in the making.

So he walked, continuing to make himself essentially invisible by mentally encouraging everyone to ignore him. A few people did a double-take when they saw him. Still others pointed. But only a handful. A couple people had even tried to get the attention of people near them, who could not see what was being pointed out to them.

So, all things considered, a pretty effective form of disguise. When he’d had the body previously several years ago, he had only needed to remain unseen by one person, so it was good to know that the power had wider applicability.

But still, he had no specific purpose.

So he walked, aimlessly.

After a few minutes, he reached out, grabbing a young skateboarder who was about to cross in front of a speeding car, and yanked him away from the road. Snatched quickly and roughly from what would have been certain injury and perhaps death, the youth looked around, confused as to who had saved him. Doctor Holiday walked on, unnoticed.

A few minutes later, reflexively, he intercepted the arm of a purse-snatcher about to victimize a distracted middle-aged woman who Doctor Holiday, for reasons he didn’t fully grasp, knew to be down to the last few dollars she needed to get back home from Vegas. He casually flung the would-be thief into a nearby dumpster and kept walking.

Twelve minutes later, he stepped into a hotel room and stopped a young teen girl from being raped by three college men. One largely untouched and unharmed girl later—along with eight broken limbs among the men—Doctor Holiday then realized that while he might not consciously know where he was going, some part of his mind clearly had an agenda.

He stopped trying to think about it, and let his feet carry him from one task to another. Stranger after stranger was helped, and some lives saved, as he walked through the hours, and toward Gryphon. Eventually, he felt the urge to flag down a cab and did, and let it carry him the rest of the way to the city that he sensed was his ultimate goal. It took a great deal of concentration and pain to allow the cab driver to notice him yet not notice he was Doctor Holiday, but the imperative to take a cab the rest of the way to Gryphon was irresistible.

When he got out of the cab just as dusk was approaching, and it had driven away, Doctor Holiday walked for a few blocks and entered an alley. He promptly doubled over in agony, falling to the ground in a fetal position. He writhed and twitched until the sun was almost down, screaming soundlessly.

When the pain finally passed, he got up and looked to the night sky.

He sensed another in his mind, and smiled. Everything was different now. Before, he had been the “Other” and now he was transcendent.

And it was time for the do-gooder to take a back seat as darkness sat like a shroud upon Halloween.

* * *

November 6, 2012

Cyberwalk was running a quasi-intelligence program in its security system—a precursor to some of the few rudimentary and outrageously expensive AI systems out on the market now. Without the QI, he never could have sorted things out so quickly, but even so, it felt like forever to find what he wanted: A face that was at the scene of every illusory zombie attack in the casino, at the moment it started. In the small hours of the morning, Cal still awake only by the grace of caffeine, the QI finally narrowed it down to one nondescript, average-height, skinny man somewhere in his mid-20s or early 30s.

This completely unremarkable-looking man was no doubt the transhuman Cal suspected was the source of all the trouble.

But it wasn’t whom he had expected.

I expected tall, broad and muscular. Probably with a bandage-covered head and an electronic display over his chest. Instead, the closest thing I found to Doctor Holiday that night was a woman with an Ace-bandage-wrapped face and a faux digital display across her ample bosom that said “Doctor Whore-Daily.”

On the one hand, he felt a thrill of victory to have found the prime suspect and probably perpetrator of all the needless death and injury in Gryphon that night. On the other hand, it disappointed him to find that it wasn’t the one elusive transhuman who seemed to have all the possible powers and too many personalities.

As Cal watched one dimly lit scene on the monitor, the nondescript man walked past a lounge area, at the outside edge of which were mounted a number of hung plants, the bottoms of their pots suspended some six feet off the ground. As the man dodged out of the way of a drunk patron of the bar who was awkwardly fleeing a zombie-that-wasn’t-a-zombie, one of those pots near the presumed transhuman’s head was knocked aside suddenly, and then again when it bounced back against something that wasn’t there.

All that happening six inches or more above the man’s head—but right where his head would have been if he were taller.

Say, several inches over six feet tall and well-muscled, Cal mused. Broad of chest. Wearing an electronic display and his head wrapped in brown cloth strips.

* * *

October 31, 2012

A woman working as a cocktail waitress, struggling to keep the rent paid on a tiny apartment for her and two children, suddenly looked all the world like a bloody, moaning zombie. Not that she knew it. So, when one of the men she’d just served drinks to and flirted with minutes before began beating her with a barstool, she didn’t know why. She could only scream and beg for mercy, her anguish unseen on her supposedly decomposing face and her words unheard from a supposedly twisted, pus-filled mouth.

In another part of the casino, an old man looked like a police officer to the eyes of a nearby accountant. In the chaos, the accountant went to the police officer for help. But to the old man, he saw only a hungry member of the undead lumbering toward him, eager to devour his flesh. He stumbled backwards and fell, feeling his chest constrict with what would be his fourth and final heart attack in eight years. The accountant saw no heart attack but spurting blood instead, and had no one to blame but the zombie that had suddenly appeared behind that poor cop. The accountant beat the zombie down with a heavy vase and then caved in its skull with the police officer’s baton.

It would be several minutes later, when the lights brightened again and the illusions fell away, before he realized that the police baton was an old man’s cane.

And that the zombie he had killed was a 16-year-old cheerleader looking for her parents, while those parents, in turn, were elsewhere busy killing a zombie that would actually turn out to be a grandmother of five enjoying her first vacation in nearly 20 years.

Scene after scene played out. Death after death. Injury after injury. Suffering upon misery.

Doctor Holiday strode through the casino feeling like a god.

I am your god, you ants, he reveled silently in his head, not wanting to draw attention to himself by yelling it out loud. You are nothing. I’m directing your lives like a movie. A pathetic zombie film. I’m going to make you kill each other. You’ll kill for me and for my amusement. You’ll flee and fight in terror now.

And later, he thought to himself giddily, many of them would weep in grief for a long time to come knowing they had someone else’s blood on their hands.

* * *

November 6, 2012

Letting the video play frame-by-frame now, Cal watched closely. After what seemed an interminably long time, he saw it, just for a frame or two, as the illusion faltered just a split-second.

Doctor Holiday.

On the man’s digital chest display, among images of candy corn and black cats, Cal saw part of something that was likely scrolling across it—words and part of one: Trick-or-T

A little while later, the image of Doctor Holiday appeared again in a single frame where the nondescript man had been, and Cal saw -rTreat, Everybo on the display.

For a brief moment, Cal felt elation. Not just because he had cracked the mystery but because like so many large companies, and some smaller ones, Cyberwalk probably had a clause in its main insurance policy, or a rider to it—or even a separate policy—against death and damage by Doctor Holiday.

The likelihood of ever seeing your premiums pay off was ridiculously low, but much like various other forms of disaster insurance, it was a small price to pay each month for a potentially huge payoff.

If Cyberwalk was smart as Cal thought, not only could they easily rebuild, but they’d be able to pay for any legal defenses or settlements that might arise as a result of Doctor Holiday’s aftermath.

Then, more slowly than the elation had kicked in, something darker slid in to take its place. Cal felt cold. Exposed. Anxious.

Suddenly, he was wishing he hadn’t realized who was behind all of this. Being even this close to the boogeyman-made-real was unnerving. Knowing he was in the same building in which the transhuman known as Doctor Holiday had waged destruction and ushered death mere days before made him sick.

Made him feel like the next potential victim.

* * *

Midnight—November 1, 2012

The good one had fought all night, and finally felt himself begin to assert control over his darker half. Felt his grip on the body return as had been the case in the daylight. He held on to his counterpart’s powers somehow to keep them disguised from everyone’s sight, as he propelled their guilty body from the latest crime scene, legs shaking now.

He managed to get a block away before he lost it.

As, both at once, the two Doctor Holidays who had held the body tonight—both of them for their second time—felt control leave them.

The body was no longer their concern as they tottered on the mental precipice, and they found they didn’t care anymore that their freedom had been rescinded. They were prepared to join the others in the muttering multitude who awaited a turn at the body perhaps, on some other holiday.

Both at once, the two personalities sensed him—the one that every single personality forgot about when he took control of the body and always remembered when the holiday was over. The one who knew them all but never controlled the body except for the few moments before and the few after a holiday.

Everyone knew of the Admin, but none remembered ever having heard him speak.

“Take your memories back to the rest,” he said, and his voice was the same as theirs, if the intonations and emotions a slightly different shade. “Whispering and murmuring among yourselves. Take back what it feels like to be two halves of the coin at the same time. What it means to be good and evil in one body. Savior and destroyer. Take back the memory of the pain of sudden transformation, too, when you switched places and your powers changed. Share it. Tell everyone.”

And then they were swept away, and his presence receded as well.

The drone stepped forth into the forefront of Doctor Holiday’s  mind, and life returned to normal.

* * *

November 9, 2012

Although he’d known already for days, Cal had said nothing to the executives of the Cyberwalk Casino what he knew of the perpetrator of their recent woes. Partly, he’d wanted to do some additional investigating, and that meant getting access to a whole lot of other security video and police reports from other areas where Doctor Holiday’s crimes had taken place.

Also, he figured that after all they’d been through, happy news on a Friday would make them feel a lot better—not to mention more generous with Quicksilver’s payment, perhaps. Knowing who the perpetrator had been—and knowing there was a big insurance payout coming—was going to take a lot of the sting out of the recent disaster.

Many other people at other businesses would be happy, too, when the news came out—except perhaps the insurance companies paying the claims.

After introductions had been made and Cal led quickly and succinctly into his findings and conclusions, along with a quick recap of the work Quicksilver had done so far in repair and recovery, the questions flew at him.

How?—and variations of it—were the most fervent and more common.

“Basically, he created an illusion of a major threat, and got people to attack each other thinking they were acting in self-defense,” Cal had said at one point. “Used the same trick to hide himself.”

“We already knew people were hallucinating. But how could it be an illusion projected by Doctor Holiday? You could see it on the cameras, too. There wasn’t any mind trick going on,” one vice president had interjected.

“It wasn’t a Psi power. It was a Luminar power,” Cal said. “He essentially generated holograms of everything. Amazingly complex. Impossibly so. He drew on the available light, which is why everything got so much darker during the event—I think a lot of people assumed there was something wrong with the power, but there wasn’t. It was Doctor Holiday creating the most impossibly perfect light show to fool everyone. It also seems he had some ability to tamper with sound as well, though that wasn’t quite as intricate.”

He’d answered a bunch of technical questions for a while thereafter—and repeated his explanation in more ways than he felt necessary—but with the revelation it was Doctor Holiday, the sense of relief was palpable. Not a terrorist threat but rather a transhuman basket-case who had never been known to strike the same place twice—almost never even the same city or town twice.

For Cal, though, the sense of doom only deepened, even as he realized he’d made everyone’s day—not the least of whom would be his fellow company co-founders, CEO Jim Castile and President Eileen Kosume.

* * *

November 12, 2012

He walked, as the drone always walked, with no purpose and yet with all purpose. He knew the others in the head called him drone mockingly. Some called him robot or retard. Condescendingly. Dismissively.

Most of them, anyway, even though their survival all depended on him.

He didn’t care.

It wasn’t in his nature to care. He had no ego, no emotion, no agenda. No sense of right or wrong or future. No aspirations.

A few days before every holiday, he wrapped the bandages around their head and strapped on the digital display unit across their chest. Sometimes he would dress festively in advance of the holiday, if the Admin so directed. A few days after the holiday, he would find someplace to hide the display and bandages until they were needed again.

Other than that, his only concerns were to eat and drink; to piss and shit. And, when necessary, to sleep. He rarely had money, but the drone always found safe food and secure shelter.

There were no other tasks.

Except, sometimes, to watch for things the Admin and the Others might care about.

Like the headline of a newspaper this morning noting that the responsible party for at least 956 deaths in Gryphon, Nevada, was neither a terrorist group nor a group of transhumans but a single man: Doctor Holiday.

At a subtle direction in his head, the drone acquired the newspaper. Read the article. Learned the name of the man who’d put it all together.

He got other papers that day, and found a computer at a local library to do some online research and learn more.

When the Admin was satisfied that he had enough information, the drone stopped working, stood up and walked onward. Toward nothing and everything.

The drone went back to the simple things in life: feeding their body’s needs and voiding its waste products.

* * *

November 22, 2012

At the Furtado household, Cal had only just finished his pumpkin pie when he saw the hulking form in his backyard, mostly hidden by the tall bushes way in back.

He was sure that he had been meant to see him, and at this precise time.

Cal thought about calling the police, or warning his family, but then considered the likely outcome. If Doctor Holiday had wanted to kill him immediately, he would have. And if he wanted every family member and every one of their guests dead, he’d have done it outright. Calling the police or wasting time would only increase the chances he might yet decide to do both.

Without a word to anyone, Cal walked out the back door, and toward the transhuman he had uncovered as Gryphon’s number-one criminal and one of the most notorious mass murderers in modern times—eclipsed in that regard only by Patient Zero.

When he drew close, not knowing what else to do, Cal quietly babbled, “I guess you didn’t want to be found out. I…guh-guess as far as last meals go, a juicy turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry suh-sauce isn’t bad.”

“Shut up,” Doctor Holiday said, “and step over here. And don’t forget you had green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes and a slice of pumpkin pie, too. Not to mention all that apple cider and wine.”

“Do you have to kill me?” Cal asked nervously.

“Unlike some of us in here, I’m not into playing with my prey. If you were to be killed, you’d be dead. And what part of ‘shut up’ was hard to understand? Pay attention, or I may revise how this evening ends for you. It’s been a quiet holiday for once for Doctor Holiday, particularly with this covered up,” the transhuman said, patting the digital monitor on his chest, the lighted display of which was obscured by what seemed to be a thick blanket. “I’d like to keep it that way.”

Cal followed Doctor Holiday, his legs wobbly and throat dry. He almost got out the word, “Why?” before he remembered to be quiet.

Finally, Doctor Holiday stopped, turned around, and looked down at Cal’s five-foot-nine-inch frame from six feet, six inches up—two of those inches from the work boots he currently wore. He threw off the bit of heavy canvas covering the display on his chest and Cal saw that displayed in bold letters was HAPPY THANKSGIVING! while small animations played around those words. Turkeys running from knife-wielding farmers. Native Americans waving at Pilgrims before being shot down with muskets in response. A Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon in the shape of Snoopy bursting into flame.

Closer now, Cal could also see what the night had hid previously: the black Pilgrim’s hat perched on top of Doctor Holiday’s head, so small that it must be a child’s size. Cal stifled a giggle of nervous terror and waited, shivering.

“I think we can talk now, Mr. Furtado.”

“I’m guessing you…you didn’t want anyone to…to…find out about you,” Cal stammered quietly. “I don’t know what coming to me to do…do…what…whatever is going to accomplish now.”

“You haven’t stopped digging up info on us yet, have you?” Doctor Holiday asked. “You’re still trying to find out more about that night. What we did do and what we didn’t.”

“Us? We?”

“Yes. Us. Every one of we who live in here. All the us-es that make Doctor Holiday who he is. Who we are. And you’re trying to figure us out.”

Cal shuddered to think at how much Doctor Holiday already knew. Because he was right. The search for answers hadn’t ended with the presentation to the executives of the Cyberwalk Casino, nor with interviews with the police.

There had been no break in the search for answers. Not for Cal.

Not since the moment Cal had seen the last video of Doctor Holiday, far from the Cyberwalk. A glimpse of the real man hidden under the illusion of the nondescript one, as Cal had examined another video frame by frame. The plain man had walked confidently and proudly out of the final site of Doctor Holiday’s Halloween mayhem, shortly before midnight.

But then the flash of Doctor Holiday in a single frame.

The hunched shoulders and drooped head of the imposing transhuman. A man weighted down with sadness, who had spent all the previous hours of the night proudly strutting as he sowed destruction.

That dichotomy—that revelation—had put Cal to wondering what Doctor Holiday had been doing the rest of the day, when the sun was up. A curiosity that led him to vague and sketchy reports of Doctor Holiday sightings in nearby Las Vegas. Of people strangely rescued throughout the city that day in ways they couldn’t explain. So much of it had been police reports that seemed insignificant even to the police, or deemed crank calls, or things that were noted in brief articles buried in newspapers. Rumors, loose talk and blog posts. Things it had taken Cal weeks to pull together and sort out amidst his day-to-day duties at Quicksilver Recovery.

All to realize that this year, Doctor Holiday had been two figures. A hero in the afternoon and a villain in the night. Light and darkness, played out like some overwrought, painfully obvious symbolism in a bad movie or play. Not to mention something so weirdly out of proportion. Dozens upon dozens helped or saved; then hundreds upon hundreds hurt or killed.

“You didn’t want anybody to know,” Cal said flatly. “And you don’t want anyone to know the full truth now. Are you going to hurt me? Or do something else to me? Stop me, I guess. Somehow. Right?”

“It’s true that I hadn’t planned for us to be discovered,” Doctor Holiday said. “But maybe the reason I’m here tonight is that I think you don’t know enough yet.”

Cal had no response, and Doctor Holiday cocked his head.

“I’m sorry,” the transhuman said. “I’ve never really operated this body directly for more than a few seconds at a time, and I don’t even usually speak directly to ourselves inside our head. I’m more a silent partner. Not a social chap. Perhaps I’m not doing this well. Perhaps I’m simply confusing you more.”

“You control all of the personalities, don’t you?”

“No, I direct them to their tasks,” Doctor Holiday answered. “We’re a very democratic society in here. We decided a long time ago to break into pieces and only come out for the holidays. Even if we don’t remember why. I just keep things on track toward our goal. Toward the coming crisis. The Others call me the Admin.”

“What is it you want me to know?” Cal asked.

“Pretty much what I’ve told you already. We are many. For the first time, last month, two minds shared the body the same holiday. They needed to know what it felt like to be good and evil at once. To realize other things, too, like how much it hurts to have the body’s powers change when one is awake and aware. There are other things the Others needed to learn, but I don’t want to share it all.”

“Why? Why did you do it on Halloween? Why do you do any of it?”

“Because this body and all of us in it need to be trained. Tempered. Prepared. Because when we were one, more than 11 years ago, he saw something. Knew it was coming, though I’m not sure he knew what it was. And he knew we needed to be broken to keep the world safe. But it is coming, Mr. Furtado, and it seemed right to me that at least one person should know enough of the truth to understand a little of who we are and why we do what we do, so maybe someone will cheer us on when the crisis finally arrives. So someone might comprehend what it was all for.”

Doctor Holiday paused.

“But I need to impress upon you, Mr. Furtado, how much you can’t tell anyone else until all of us Doctor Holidays come together to face what must be faced and do what must be done, both terrible and glorious. We may have to be brutal to be kind. Quite likely. If you tell anyone, even Jim or Eileen or your wife—if you share it with others—we will kill you and everyone you tell. All in its time, Mr. Furtado, but not before. Find out as much as you want. Pick up the pieces and put them together, but keep it to yourself until the crisis is here.”

“What crisis? When?” Cal asked, no longer sure if Doctor Holiday were a paranoid, deluded transhuman or one with crucial knowledge and purpose.

“We don’t know. But soon enough. Not so many years from now. Or maybe not even years. But I think years,” Doctor Holiday said. “In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one parting tidbit. One recommendation to benefit you and compensate for your silence.”

“What’s that?” Cal asked, suddenly not sure he really wanted to know.

“Business advice. Quicksilver should start forging some international strategic alliances. With similar companies in countries like Australia, Japan—really, anywhere there are a lot of people and lots of coastlines.”


“Because,” Doctor Holiday said as he covered up the display again to darken it, and turned to walk away, “when the crisis comes, it will come from the seas. There is going to be a lot to clean up after that. If anyone’s alive to care. The oceans will spill forth the end of humanity. And transhumanity. Unless we’re still around to stop it.”

For a moment, Cal wanted to cry out, “I don’t want any part of it” but realized he wasn’t included in the “we’re” that Doctor Holiday had mentioned. He had meant all of Them—every personality inside the body. No one else probably; certainly not Cal. Probably not even thinking about other transhumans.

Cal let a madman with too much power walk away, and resolved to do nothing to stop him; nothing to reveal him. Paying in the coin of other people’s lives and his own to peel away some of Doctor Holiday’s secrets for the world to see just wasn’t in him.

And even if the price wasn’t too dear for him to consider, he wasn’t certain he had the right to get in the man’s way. Or the ability. In his own way, Doctor Holiday was a force of nature, every bit as much as Hurricane Sandy.

Doctor Holiday was going to be a savior one day. Or maybe he was going to be the destroyer—the predicted coming crisis itself.

Either way, Cal realized, Doctor Holiday seemed destined to be good business again for Quicksilver Recovery somewhere down the line. Sometime all too soon.