PANTHEON, PUBLIC RELATIONS: CODE

The EEG waves crawl across the monitor screen. Alpha, beta and gamma subdued by drugs the medical staff gave you before I could get here. The psi wave for telepathy weaves in and out of the pattern, sometimes preceded, sometimes traced by the epsilon for empathy. At the bottom of screen, theta ticks along quietly; there are no shadows in here to trigger a teleport.

I should have taken you along to Hongkong, my boy. I probably would have, if you hadnít sulked about it in the morning. All the books Iíve read on good parenting say you need limits. They donít say anything about my occasional need to show you who makes the decisions in our household of two.

It took me way too long to come here and for that I apologise. Denver was felt worldwide and the astral plane was in an uproar. I didnít dare cross the Pacific in a single leap and had to zip west, through Europe. Thought about crossing the equator and going through Cape Horn, then come up through South America, but it was noon in South Africa and more time would have been lost than gained. The scientists in the base camp off Greenlandís west coast are used to me turning up in their mess hall by now.

Too often my anger is interpreted as strength, my acts of desperation as expertise. My presence at WEI is purely decorative, yet the trustees look to me to approve policy changes. The nurse put your chart down on the bed and backed out of the room when I told her to. Iím afraid I owe the hospital a substantial donation after today, not to mention apologies all around.

We are Braddocks and we are Worthingtons and no oneís stupidity kills us but our own. I think that was how I phrased it when I ripped out the IV that kept you under. Another version might apply as well: nothing kills us but our own stupidity. But I call it in here, youíre mine.

That being said, I donít really know what to do. Since you're still breathing, I have time to think about it. At any other time, I'd take your hand, but I know better than to stain your skin with shadow. Others have, not knowing the risk at first, then doing it anyway, for your sake. Touching you would be for my comfort only; I put my hands behind my back.

Jean intercepted me at the entrance, asking me not to be angry. Why would I be? I refuse to be angry with anyone who wasn't in the Denver Merge and I told her so. I'm certain you have received the best of care, even if it hurts my heart to think of how much time passed before anyone thought to check on you.

You're still lost, walking the deep and hidden paths inside your own mind. But your heart beats a steady rhythm, while everyone else who manifested psionic powers today died on impact. Thierry Nicot, 13, Brussels, Markus Isaksson, 10, Helsinki and Mary-Anne Yates, 16, Tulsa. The list will grow longer, I'm afraid, with newborn and premature babies. I think of Gina up in recovery and then I don't.

As expected, your mind is closed to me. No one else has tried to force the way. I realise just how fortunate that is, when my first soft-pointed probe meets a smooth, curved surface. Your shields are fragile as egg-shell, but there is no entrance. I could crack you open easily, in fact I have to be careful not to break you without meaning to, which would sentence you to a life as vegetable. And you might still be in there somewhere, even after I've taken away everything else. I withdraw my probe.

There's another way, of course. There always is. A weakness in you, a part of the weave where the threads can be parted. I know where and how, I designed it myself. Few remember the STRIKE telepath cadre and what we could and would do; I'm being careful not to remind them. I've spent the last thirty years being a useful member of society, loving wife and mother. Only your uncle Brian knows what I am. He was there, when I became it. His feelings towards me areÖnot unjustified.

The Cadre only killed when design and redesign wouldn't do the trick. Me, I cured Brian's alcoholism and gave him Meggan. I took away Braddock Inc and made sure he couldn't take it back. He still lives at the Manor, an embittered recluse who would abuse his wife if he only could break the brainlock.

As for your father, I never touched him, even if I thought about it. A few months before Genosha, I had the algorithms for intervention worked out. Maybe I should have done it then, maybe the ending would have been different if I had; we'll never know.

I tell you this so you'll know you're neither the first nor the last to be rewritten by me. I tell you this so you may forgive me, if you would like to. But I won't ask permission for protecting what I love, or for doing what is necessary. Your father understood this and if you have inherited any of his ruthlessness or mine, you will as well. Don't be afraid, my boy. It won't hurt you very much and not for long.

Closing my eyes, I call up the command line. The prompt hovers in front of me, bright green against black as I switch between subdirectories and enter the coordinates I'd die before I spoke out loud. The smooth egg shell surface bulges, lines and basic tenets twisting out of alignment to let me in. I begin to write myself a new and improved son.

FIN