Chapter 32: Living With Parkinson's?
1.26.2003 Edited by , every Sunday.
When Bjorn heard the words "Parkinson's Disease," his mind accelerated, took a U-turn, swerved, screeched, and fell into a ditch. It rolled 540 degrees. It wheezed. It smoked. It began to cough little flames from the exhaust.
"Why?" asked Bjorn.
Michael J. Fox sighed. "It is a symptom - a side-effect - of the time-travelling you have undergone. You've been taking pills, right?"
Bjorn nodded, his eyes like saucers.
"Well, they're not absolutely safe. No time travelling can be. They wouldn't get FDA approval, I guess." Michael made a small grin, and patted Bjorn on the shoulder.
"I guess not," said Bjorn, a wave of nostalgia passing over him as he remembered Ernie, Puri, and the office.
"It's all right, Bjorn. You can learn to live with your disability. I set up a Foundation to promote research, and hundreds of thousands of people continue to live productive lives, in spite of the nervous system disorder."
Bjorn gritted his teeth. "Those productive lives will end, if McNoHart gets his way."
And as if on queue, the alarm went off.
All around the War Room, enormous red lights emerged from steel panels, flashing red across Bjorn and the cloaked figures. Klaxons sounded from outside, the screen on the far wall blinked on. It was Noah.
"We're under attack," said Noah, eyes fierce. "McNoHart has found us." There was an explosion behind him and the image flickered off.
Michael turned to his cloaked peers. "It's time for our plan, then."
They lowered their hoods, revealing a broad variety of faces - old, young, men and women. They looked to be from all over the world, and Bjorn recognized none of them.
"We knew this safe-house wouldn't be secure forever," said Michael. "This is the War Council - made up of history's finest tactical minds."
"I don't recognize any of them..."
An Asiatic man in the corner smiled. "Of course not. McNoHart captured the 'famous' generals - Hannibal, Odysseus, Caesar."
"We, however, have God," said a tiny Russian woman with a 4 on her chest.
"And he does not consider fame - only intensity of mind."
Michael nodded. "The best strategic brains of human history were smart enough not to get caught in wars. They kicked ass in chess, mind you."
"And you're one of them?" asked Bjorn, disbelieving.
Michael J. Fox grinned his irresistible crooked grin. "Yup. But acting's a way cushier gig, y'know?"
"Enough chit-chat," barked a slender twelve-year-old boy (#1). "McNoHart is here. Let's do what we've prepared for."
Doors hissed open on each of the four walls, and the War Council swept out, at a run. Bjorn was left standing with Michael.
"We're going to the front lines," said Michael. "Come on."
As they ran down a long, metal catwalk, the slap of their shoes was cold, hollow, and quickly faded.
In one hand, Bjorn held a laser phase rifle. In the other, a large baseball bat. "Old-tech plus new," Michael had said. "Against time-soldiers, it's the only way." On his belt was clipped a small, pager-sized box. "Your shield generator. Without it, you are going to die." Bjorn was surrounded by dozens of similarly equipped fighters, many of whom wore armour of varying time-periods and dubious merit. They were arranged on steps, in five rows and each row stood higher than the one in front of them.
At their backs was a long, tarp-covered panel. Inside it, Bjorn had been told, was the Shield Integrity Thing - the asteroid's most important device. Without it, every warrior's electric shield would cease to function and - more importantly - so too would the safe house's external shields fail.
They stood in an enormous, long hall. And they waited.
There was no sound when McNoHart's army burst into the room. Bjorn was watching the far doors with hard, unwavering eyes; his finger rested tense on the trigger of his rifle. He did not see as McNoHart's goons quietly cut through the plastic of the ceiling, silently fell on them from above.
It was carnage. Bjorn watched as a Mongol hordesman sliced the neck of the toga-clad man beside him, blood spraying like juice from a grapefruit. Bjorn raised and lowered his firearm, unable to fire into the fray for fear of hitting a member of his own side. He whacked with his baseball bat, but the blows bounced away from the hordeman's invisible shield. The man smiled horribly. He had no teeth, and then leapt onto another victim.
Bjorn whirled. Everywhere he saw the flashes of shields activated, but couldn't distinguish those of his allies from those of his enemies. It was a muddle of history and culture: was the knight trying to protect the Shield Integrity Thing, or destroy it? Was that camouflage-clad commando for or against?
Bjorn began to see recognizable faces, but couldn't remember whether they were familiar from the hallways of the asteroid, or from life in the twenty-first century. Heather Locklear? Henry Kissenger? Copernicus? Should he be fighting these people, or fighting beside them?
Then there was an explosion of sparks and Bjorn turned to see the tarpaulin on the Shield Integrity Thing cast aside, knives thrust into its microchips and fiber optics. A phalanx of copper-clad soldiers stood on guard as football linebackers bashed and smashed, their eyes black and without irises.
The shield generator on Bjorn's belt fizzled and went dark. Bjorn was suddenly conscious of his own mortality. A few layers of cotton stood between his body and the blade of a scimitar. He began to shudder.
Blackbeard was at the far side of the room. Bjorn saw a boxy robot raise an arm and shoot a laser. The old pirate fell, body burst open like a watermelon.
Bjorn backed into a corner, desperation building in him. There were some zombies among McNoHart's fighters, Bjorn saw now - flesh dripped from their faces, but their limbs were strong. They sliced and blazed through opponents, caring little for injuries to their flesh.
Then, clear as day, in the middle of the fray, Bjorn saw his parents. They were as he remembered them from those many years before - the black beard of his father; his mother's small, soft hands. A wave of memories threw itself over him, he staggered, he called across the room: "Mom! Dad!"
But then the real world shuddered into existence, and a gray pallor fell over the faces of his family. Skin sagged from their arms. Their eyes were dull and black.
"Zombies," hissed Bjorn. "Todd destroyed my parents, then brought them back to life."
Rage burbled into him, rising like a tidal wave. He watched as his mother lifted a laser rifle and fired it, point-blank, into the face of the Asian general from the War Council.
But Bjorn could do nothing. He could hardly fight - certainly not in melee such as this... he was confused, overwhelmed, alone. He threw down his bat and firearm, stuck a cold hand into his pocket and withdrew a white aspirin bottle. He opened it and spilled its contents into his palm. A blue and a purple pill. The mystery pills. The ones from FDA testing, untested and effects unknown.
The last had saved his and Jesus's life, imbuing him with electrical charge, letting him fire it at enemy machines.
And now, Bjorn prayed, the purple would do the same. He snapped the blue back inside, slid it into his pocket. He threw the purple into his mouth. Swallowed.
Bjorn felt his stomach convulse, clench. It was like an iron ball deep in his belly, pulling at his other organs. He was pulled backward into the wall, face spasming in pain. His fingers splayed out, pressing into the wall, and he could feel a charge oozing out of them. It wasn't the same electricity as the yellow pill had brought on, however - this was a strange magnetism, powerful and uncontrollable. And it hurt.
Through tear-washed eyes, Bjorn saw spidering cracks that expanded across the wall from his fingers, spreading and broadening until they were massive breaks in the surface. They shot up into the ceiling, and over the corners of the room.
From deep in the safe house, Bjorn heard some foreboding creaks.
And before he knew it, the city - built into an asteroid at the end of time - was breaking apart.
The first thing to go was the far corner of the hall, then a chunk closer to Bjorn, then the ceiling. Beyond - there was the roar of space, the Antarctic cold, the pure and life-sucking vacuum.
McNoHart's soldiers didn't care. Special footgear kept them affixed to the floor, laughing, as all of Bjorn's allies went hurtling into the dark, all air pulled from their lungs, screams fading into silence.
And Bjorn, Bjorn could do nothing. He continued to convulse and shriek, energy surging from him, destroying yet more of his temporary home, watching as the only people to stand against McNoHart were devoured by the void of the universe.
When at last the effects of the pill wore off, and Bjorn too felt himself pulled upward into an empty black death, he welcomed it. He wanted to die. And yet his hand reached into his pocket again, withdrew one of his many time-travelling pills - the ones that would kill him eventually, anyway - and popped it into his mouth.
The world swirled. And Bjorn time-jumped.
By Sean Micheals