A Matter of Fact (Ch 2)
A Matter of Fact
March 27, 2007. Prince George, BC
Who might be so bold or crass to believe that they have the competence to decide what somebody else's life will be?
While a person may have a basic notion as to what is good and proper ... at least for themselves, encumbering someone else with the results of a poor choice; not a task to be taken lightly, or one for the faint of heart to attempt.
Mike Williamson's head nested heavily between his folded hands, the strength to keep it upright any longer eluding him, risking another's life and juggling cats are two endeavours that grant little forgiveness. Once more Mike scanned the faces seated around the table, each weary participant reflecting the same worry and anxiety he was feeling. These assembled few met in the Care Centre’s conference room; after Mike had sought out Cameron’s valued friends, they willingly joined him knowing the severity of Cameron's situation.
Mike as guardian needed to give direction on how care for Cameron's immediate physical wellbeing would proceed. Cameron was currently incapacitated; sedated in the Intensive Care Unit at the Hospital awaiting his decision. She had succumbed to severe pain resulting from her transgendered condition with the male organs having begun developing at an accelerated pace; asserting themselves just as Doctor Russel had cautioned. However, Cameron’s body was still too fragile; not having recovered enough from the debilitating effects of her coma making any operation very risky. It had been hoped that given time, Cameron would have been able to gain strength and developed enough physically in her recovery – as well have grown a little older and bigger to permit an easier transition. The very course which the doctors had recommended before a corrective surgery would be attempted.
Tanya Nelson at Arkham had postulated that Cameron's situation might be due to a reaction from the increased energy intake when ‘hooked up’ to the generator, much like a cold-blooded lizard warming itself in the sun. Regardless, Arkham was puzzled as this case was reverse to a typical manifestation that would generate its own energy, hence their suggestion that Cameron drew upon external energy sources.
Nevertheless, Cameron's life was in danger! the dilemma being discussed needed agreement soon since the situation had become life threatening: ready or not it looked like a surgery needed to happen now! With the final decision falling upon Cameron's guardian: Mike. Comments of concern, shed tears, and sorrowful sighs gave testimony from around the table at how this young girl in such a short time had touched the lives of those present. Could the frail girl survive a surgery, let alone handle the emotional and psychological strain a forced sex change would bring? That was the burden each was struggling with.
Joan: Cameron's psychologist, was asked to join those gathered in hopes she could bring insight into Cameron's mental health. Joan's assessment spoke about how that while the girl was indeed physically small, she had a strength of spirit surpassing those of far greater years, certainly she was still working through her grief - the loss of her family being an emotional rollercoaster, but she was moving forward; exhibiting courage, determination, and an uncommon resilience rarely found in such a young person. From discussions during their sessions Cameron had only just begun to work through the challenge of becoming a boy, and while not embracing the transition - had not resisted its necessity. All in the room being relieved in hearing a positive report - especially Mike.
The call to Doctor Russell provided direction to proceed with the sex reassignment surgery which was made after receiving the consent of all those who had Cameron’s interests at heart.
March 29, 2007. PG General Hospital
The surgery was squeezed into the operating theatres schedule and slated to start at 10:00 pm; estimated to take 5 hours. Dr. Russell exited from surgery at 4:00 am to let the worried waiting room occupants hear that it had been successful.
The recovery room in Intensive Care that Cameron was placed into was private however not quiet, the nurses station across the hall being a hub of activity. Cameron was constantly monitored, the anesthetic used in the operation would take several hours to ebb, however a vigil had been established between members of Cameron’s new family permitting each at taking a turn to watch over her – him; all caught themselves using an improper noun and could only imagine how sensitive Cameron might become to the gender switch.
Cameron first stirred that afternoon: during Grace’s watch, Cameron groggily looked over to see Grace – a smile forming weakly on the youth’s colourless face, Grace tenderly held Cameron’s hand till he calmly slid back asleep.
March 30, 2007. PG General Hospital
Cameron laughed at the joke told by the middle-aged man sporting a bronze suntan with bright blue eyes and sandy blonde hair, he sat across from Cameron, two benches had been arranged to face each other to permit talking as the passengers casually watched the landscape outside the window pass by, his anecdote had been about naming his ranch “Passing Wind” which bespoke how deeply he cared for his business of wind farming, the mans wife sat beside Cameron; her beauty not having faded from her youth as the long black tresses of hair floated over her shoulders - she chuckled along with the tale being told but hints of an ongoing feud over the implications such a name presented carried in the undercurrents. An exceptionally attractive young woman sat kitty-corner - occasionally sneaking a glance at Cameron: her emerald green eyes looking right through his soul, her sculpted face with high cheek bones and pert upturned nose was framed by raven hair obviously a gift from her mother. Each brief moment of eye contact felt like absolute terror combined with the highest elation: Cameron was warring over the urge to flee and the insatiable desire to look once more into those beautiful eyes. The girl shyly commented “Daddy can’t wait to get back to ‘Passing Wind’” to which her father quickly slid in “Who said I ever stopped” eliciting a groan from his wife and laughter from all others in the little party.
Cameron begrudgingly opened his eyes and let fly a moan of frustration mixed with curiosity. Yet another dream to dissect! He lay there still working through each scene trying to find a link to the now. There had been a disturbing series of dreams, which might just have been the result of the sedatives - or maybe more glimpses into future events. Only time would tell.
Yesterday Cameron had shaken the anesthetic’s effects, and while being as hungry as a bear coming out of hibernation, had to wait until today to eat solid food. Mike Williamson had been in conversation with a nurse when Cameron squeaked out a “Hello”.
“You’re up! I’ll let Dr. Russell know” stated the nurse who then left the room.
Mike Williamson sat on the edge of the bed and asked “How are you feeling?”
“Starving, and my mouth feels like I’ve been eating paste." Pausing a second then adding "before you ask, not one of my finest moments."
“There’s some water here for you, and breakfast is coming. Do you know what’s happened?”
“I’ve pieced it together; sorry about giving you a scare."
“I … We had to make sure you would be okay” Mike managed to say with a shake in his voice.
“I guess I have a lot of adjustments to make, I really have no clue what being a guy entails." Taking a close look at the anxiety laden Mike "But foremost: thank you! I'm alive and that's what counts" intoned Cameron, motioning Mike into a hug which didn’t part for a long time as Cameron let a couple sniffles escape.
“It’s okay to cry” comforted Mike holding tight.
“Men don’t cry” sighed Cameron.
“Of course we do, we just like saving it for special occasions: and this counts – so go ahead."
Cameron’s tears didn’t come as a raging torrent, just a slow steady stream as pent-up emotions burst the dam, being held was a comfort and relief. Cameron so desperately wanted to hear Mom say ‘she was going to be okay’ as she always did no matter what Cameron’s problem might be, but Mom wasn’t there and that void was as big a hurt as the fresh physical scars. Cameron replayed in her mind the many times her mother had held her tight – those memories helped, and reminded Cameron that love might have been lost but was found again in the hearts of friends.
Grace and Marcus stopped by early in the evening to cheer up the bedridden youth who was yearning for company, the child had been kept busy once the Hospital staff discovered Cameron was back: doctors began bringing patients in for Cameron to make examinations, and who in mere seconds could detail a physical ailment. However, Cameron did not volunteer to heal anyone; understanding the need to be discrete and didn’t think it wise to possibly take energy away from ‘his’ own healing. Cameron's battery had dipped considerable after the new high was reached with the generator, the internal gauge sat in the low zone once more.
Grace had brought the laptop, a not so coy hint that Cameron needed to get back into the routine of living, with school work being a good reminder. A comment about Grace being a slave driver was delivered and laughed at, but it had been an act of love and concern - a nudge to see how deeply Cameron had been shaken, and if the youth's determination remained intact.
Grace sat on the bed close to Cameron holding his hand “How do you feel?” was compassionately asked as pleading eyes looked for truth.
Cameron’s face was solemn “I hurt” was the loaded response as the physical, emotional, and psychological pain that was evident upon the youth.
Grace bent down and gently kissed his forehead while Marcus put his hand on Cameron’s shoulder “We’re here for you” they said in unison.
In a sigh of resignation Cameron spoke softly "I don't know who I am anymore: boy - girl, human - mutant." watery eyes blinked and a sniffle later "Nothing is the same anymore and it scares me!"
"Considering you've joined the guy's club, I'll let you in on a secret" confided Marcus "Guy's are just as scared as girls, they only act tough because that's how they show love."
"That makes no sense!" Rebuffed Cameron.
"Emotion's don't have to make sense - because they come from the heart" soothed Marcus "Guys have all the same feelings your used to, it's just that they handle them differently." after giving the trembling youth a reassuring smile Marcus continued "I promise, you'll understand when your daughter is scared by a thunderstorm."
The remainder of the evening was spent in quiet conversation to allow Cameron some rest, before leaving Marcus asked if there was anything that Cameron needed, a shy question was asked: “As much as I loved my Dad; he was a terrible singer … would you teach me?” Marcus agreed to take him on as a pupil.
April 3, 2007
Dr. Russell finished his examination, the amazement evident upon his face at how quickly Cameron had healed after the surgery - along with no complications… of course Cameron’s ministrations aided the recovery greatly. The doctor took some time to discuss with Cameron the newest details regarding what the research scientists looking into the toxins effects had been able to discover: findings firmly establishing that the bullets chemicals did indeed cause gender related issues in laboratory testing; if you could get past the 99.8 percent mortality rate experienced by the fruit flys.
This proof now providing further ‘ammunition’ in the mediation negotiations Mike was undertaking.
The really good news was Cameron could be released back to the Care Centre that afternoon, Dr. Kathy would handle all further check-ups, Cameron thanked the doctor; reaching up from his wheelchair to shake the surgeons hand.
Farewells to the hospitals doctors and nurses was heartfelt, as Grace was pushing Cameron out through the Hospital entrance, a woman called out “Wait”.
“Your Cameron aren’t you?” asked the vaguely familiar lady.
“Yes” was the tentative reply.
“I’m Eric’s Mom, you met him before a medical appointment."
“Oh yes, little boy that loves dinosaurs” remarked Cameron, recalling the brief encounter “how is he?”
“Sadly he died two weeks ago” a comment that obviously shook the woman and made Cameron gasp in grief “He wanted me to give you something” she dug into her purse, and brought out a small T-Rex keychain “He wasn’t expected to live too much longer when you two met, somehow he recovered enough to be able to fulfill his dream – visiting the Dinosaur Museum in Alberta, he bought this for you; to say ‘Thank You’, and asked me to make sure you got it”.
Tears escaped and tracked paths down Cameron’s face as he graciously accepted the gift and expressed sincere regrets over the boys passing, Grace gave the woman a hug saying how sorry she was.
The ladies underlying curiosity needing satiating, “How did you manage to help Eric?”
“I don’t really know, only that I asked his body to fight the cancer … I just wanted to help him."
“You did! Thank you."
Cameron was sorrowful for the next while holding the little T-Rex memorial tightly, Grace left some room for Cameron to ponder the exchange as the handibus pulled up in front of RCMP headquarters, Cameron’s wheelchair was being unloaded when it dawned upon him they had not arrived at the Centre.
“What are we doing here? I gave statements to the police in Hospital” asked a confused Cameron.
“The RCMP suggested a meeting once you got out” was Graces reply.
At the entrance to the RCMP station, an officer met them to act as an escort to a meeting space. Seated in the room was Mike Williamson along with 2 other men. Mike introduced them as Ray Martin and John Bastain: identifying each as members of the RCMP Special Investigation’s Team.
Ray started off “Cameron, we believe it won’t be safe having you return to the Care Centre, the assassination attempts mean it’s a known location for you. The RCMP think placing you someplace secure; under protective custody, is the best way to keep you safe”.
John added “Your still on a hit list, the price has risen substantially so we are certain more attempts will be made.”
Cameron sat quiet for a moment “I don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy … sorry! Wrong description to use about the Care Centre” the two men had puzzled expressions while Mike and Grace both chuckled since each had experienced the TV event in the Rec Room. “I promised I wouldn’t hurt anyone at the Centre” said Cameron with his head dropping onto his chest.
“Alright, we have a perfect location ready for you, its a small farm on the outskirts of town: remote and easy to protect. Mike has found a caregiver who will look after you, and I have a detail ready to keep guard” informed Ray.
“Why?” asked a perplexed Cameron.
“Why does somebody want you dead? The simple answer: you are a mystery, and some believe that makes you a threat - even if you are not a mutant - having abilities makes people scared” informed Ray “I don’t think it’s just the MCO responsible either, there might be other organizations out there as well who are driving the attacks”.
Cameron had to say “But Andrea is nice!"
“He was a man of conscience and had been helping us collect information against the MCO” added Ray.
“Was?” spat out the shocked youth.
“You hadn’t heard? Sorry about that: Andrea Gatineau was killed. It looks to have been the same two that came after you” was sadly offered by Mike, “I have something from him for you” holding out to Cameron an envelope “he arranged identification for you, it arrived at my office a few days after he died”.
Cameron opened the envelope, reading aloud the letter printed on MCO letterhead: “Dear Miss Burke. I am pleased to be able to provide you legal documentation that identifies you as not being a mutant and therefore not under the authority of the Mutant Commission Office. Should you encounter any difficulties establishing your status: the phone number printed upon this identity cards reverse side is a direct link to the MCO’s central registration database, verification of your file can be provided to any agent or agency that questions the legitimacy of your identification. Have whoever doubts your authenticity call the number and use the access codes printed on this card. Please accept my deepest apologies for the situation you have been forced to face. I hope this identification card will make future dealings with the MCO less difficult. Regards Andrea Gatineau, MCO Regional Director.” Cameron studied the card closely and asked “Is Alexis an okay name for a guy?”
The smirk on everyone’s face supplied the answer “If pressed I can use Alex, but I’m sticking with Cameron.”
"Had you thought about using a code name?" Questioned Ray "You don't have to have one if you don't want to."
The youth held a forrowed brow with pursed lips before announcing "Outlook"
The safe house arranged by the RCMP turned out to be an old homestead that had been vacant for a couple years, it was a modest little 3-bedroom house with a second ‘hired hand’ house, the property also had a couple outbuildings and barn. Nothing about the quiet secluded site attracting attention, the remote location adding to the safety afforded. The RCMP had been very accommodating in watching over Cameron: assigning a single guard onsite and an unmarked car parked a distance down the single access road. Mike had arranged for a very nice lady named Joyce to take care of meals and cleaning, she and her daughter Abigail lived in the second home.
Over-all the location was peaceful and scenic with Mike even ensuring there was internet for continuation of distance school. Cameron’s physical condition had improved to the point where he could walk independently and relished regaining the freedom that being in a wheelchair had denied him. He had begun to grow again which thrilled him greatly: since awakening from the coma he had shot up 2 whole inches, the irksome short jokes persisted, but that the coma was behind him was evident in his resumed growth.
Cameron enjoyed his new territory and spent days exploring and tinkering around the home, Abigail was a cheerful 10-year-old with Downs Syndrome and they became fast friends, their daily journeys included visiting the closest neighbours: a couple named Brown, it was a highlight both for the kids and the elderly couple who struggled to keep their little farm running, for them the company was pleasant – but especially the help they provided in tending to the garden. Cameron enjoyed gardening: deciding to plant a garden back at the safe house. By putting to use what the Browns’ had taught him: he’d found gardening was good exercise for a body with limitations, as well it afforded Cameron practise in using his abilities - and he got school credit to boot: a ‘win, win, win’ as Abigail called it. Daily walking and gardening helped build up Cameron’s strength and stamina, physio had paid off by getting his body to move again, the frequency of the medical appointments had been reduced due to his recovery.
Each day was a discovery on how to draw upon energy sources: the sun was amazing – a great furnace in the sky providing an unlimited supply once Cameron figured out how to soak it in. To make the most of that power source he observed how the suns rays effected different elements and from that knowledge designed solar collectors; building 10 and setting some around the yard to charge batteries which Cameron would drain daily. Cameron also found that his Sunroom had just enough space for 4 collectors, which helped provide a continuous charge into his personal battery. It was by chance that he discovered being able to soak up energy from the night sky: each point of light being suns as well - just further away.
One morning after waking in a sweat due to a troubling dream, Cameron began in earnest to experiment with how his energy absorbing worked, in combination with his sight he learned vital truths: a) energy can't lie, and b) all force is the application of energy. Joyce called Mike Williamson worried since Cameron had been asking Abby to throw objects like rocks and tools at him all day, Abby seemed to enjoy the game and Cameron wasn't hurt - but certainly not normal behaviour, hence more sessions with Joan the psychiatrist to allay the grown-ups fears.
Opportunity was plentiful to experiment with abilities now; which sometimes meant Cameron was in a deep introspective state examining what his 'sight' showed him while using various combinations in layers. He moved about the yard, practising building, repairing or breaking most anything found. Cameron had early-on gone around both houses effecting repairs; learning about plumbing and electrical while shoring up the structures, the end result being the buildings now stood more solid than when first built. Even his RCMP guard was drawn into this game as they would bring the most obscure items they could find in order to give him a challenge. Due to the game everyone had joined playing Cameron found he could manifest pre-printed paper with what ever he needed on it; very handy for school reports. Abby joked that he was the 'human photo copier - watch out for paper cuts!'
Cameron rarely left the safe house without being guarded by RCMP officers, most outings only had him attending medical or legal appointments. Whenever guests like Grace and Marcus came to visit: security procedures had to be followed, but Marcus had kept his word and was instructing Cameron with 2 singing lessons a week. Cameron had been able to learn extra by watching Marcus alter his voice box, Cameron could now mimic Marcus and was becoming a reasonable singer. Marcus grumbled that he had had to do it the old fashioned way (practise, practise, practise). Cameron loved the lessons, but more so the company whenever his dear friends could come.
May 1, 2007. Prince George
MCO Chief Executive Dale Philips stood in the shower with his head under the waters stream, he had been in the shower a long time already washing and re-washing himself, subconsciously trying to get emotionally clean. He absolutely hated Prince George, the place rubbed him the wrong way like petting a cat backwards, the longer he had to stay the more embittered he was becoming, ‘how can a bunch of backward hicks honestly think they have the right to doubt the actions of the worlds only protection against mutants’. His anger stemming from the fact that HE had to attend legal negotiations to fix up the mess his nephew had left behind; his unfortunate death still an open sore within the family. Dale was mad that one little freak of a kid had the potential to throw so huge a wrench into the works of the great MCO machine, now HE; a board-member on the MCO’s international executive needed to placate this miserable – whatever it is.
Stepping out of the hotel shower Dale’s cell phone rang, he fumbled with wet hands as he answered “Philips here!”
“Mister Philips, ‘Beady’ calling to check-in."
Negotiations had not progressing at all according to MCO plans, the Goodkind’s folded early citing their acceptance of responsibility and had sought a quick resolution, even presenting a personal apology letter from Bruce Goodkind for the pain and anguish suffered by it – as well as remorse over the gender switch. The settlement the Goodkind’s gave was undisclosed but likely an obscene amount which effectively ended the MCO’s plan to starve it out – now they had gotten into the tactic of wearing them down with minor issues and rebuttals – although that attorney Williamson was sharp: knocking aside nearly everything. It certainly didn’t help that it survived 3 assassination attempts, worse yet: now those imbeciles along with a lawyer were sitting in jail - this entire situation could explode. He grinned considering the two cards still left to play in his hand, and Beady here was one of those.
“Beady, your target will be at the courthouse today for a 9:30 am meeting, you can expect it to have an escort, sending you a picture now. Oh! and Beady, don’t miss!"
“I’m one of the best in the business: 24 confirmed kills, and precautions are being taken. No need to worry” the phone went silent.
‘You’d better be good’ mused Dale destroying the disposable phone ‘we’re beginning to run out of assassins’. Right after it was released from hospital they put it into protective custody and didn’t return to the retirement home as expected. A martial arts specialist code named Bigfoot had been dispatched to deal with it, but had not been able to locate it when it went into hiding. The ploy today had been to require its attendance to sort through an impasse, thereby getting it in the open.
Mike Williamson had scheduled the meeting for today at the PG courthouse; the MCO decided they needed a face to face discussion. Cameron hoped they wanted to personally present an offer like the Goodkind’s had, but was doubtful. The trip into town was uneventful, the pickup truck driven by his RCMP guard being as non-descript as imaginable. Arriving at RCMP headquarters he was assigned an additional guard and driver, an SUV was issued and the officers got outfitted for todays duty, the entourage arrived a short time ahead of schedule and he was dropped off at the courthouse steps.
Cameron exited the SUV and before he could take a single step two officers flanked him – one on either side, the detail walked up the stairs and they had almost reached the door when Cameron abruptly stopped, his face a jumble of emotions ranging from panic to curiosity. “Someone just shot at me” a bullet hung in the air a few hair breadths from his ear; its velocity having been siphoned off to the extent that it was held motionless for a brief second before dropping to the ground. Turning to look in the direction the projectile came from a gasp of shock took his breath: a second bullet was sitting within an quarter inch of his visors’ lens. “On the roof-top, building down the street, lone gunman” said Cameron pointing the way to a three story building over two blocks away, adding “take a camera”. Cameron was rushed into the building for the protection it offered, one officer remained as a guard – the other calling in reinforcements on his shoulder holstered radio as he started running across the street, the driver jumping out of the car to join him.
The RCMP officers stepped cautiously onto the roof through the staircase door, pistols drawn and held pointing upward. Each officer assigned to guard Cameron had been briefed about what the ‘kid’ had done before, but neither could be ready for the scene they found. A man dressed in sandy coloured camouflage blending into the roofing was laying on a spread-out camouflage blanket and situated between heating units, around him was a thermos and wrapped sandwiches, binoculars, and a carry case presumable for the rifle. The man was facedown with his head resting against the high powered sniper rifles scope, he wore an odd helmet which looked to be made from tinfoil but painted to match the camouflage, an ungodly snore echoed across the rooftop. The officers chuckled how that the ‘kid’ certainly was creative in ensuring his foe would be caught in the act; this arrest was going to put the station into hysterics, they began snapping photographs and started an audio recording to capture everything.
Back inside the courthouse Cameron and his RCMP guard joined the MCO meeting with Mike making introductions, Cameron was directed to sit across the table from the suited MCO representative named Dale, Cameron removed his visor and pinched the bridge of his nose to ease the built-up tension from the near miss just experienced - leaving the visor off Cameron asked “You wanted to meet me?”
Dale was off balance, in part surprised because it was still alive, but more so because of the glowing eyes, that was disconcerting (oh yeah, not a mutant, as if!) went through his mind, the brief shock he felt abated not wanting to reveal his hand: he was preparing to respond with 'A pleasure to meet you', however, what came out was “Not really, just wanted to get you in the open”.
Cameron jolted at that admission, but continued by asked “Why?”
“To give the sniper a clear shot” replied the shocked man in disbelief, obviously not wanting to have revealed that information.
“Did you order someone to try and kill me?” was Cameron’s next rapid fire question.
“Yes. We decided it was the best solution” spoke the man between the fingers of the hand he had rapidly clasped over his mouth in an effort to stop speaking.
At this point Mike interceded, “Cameron, he has confessed to a crime, the man has rights and can’t be interrogated without a lawyer present”. Turning to Cameron’s escort, Mike directed “Officer, please arrest him”. Resulting in a set of handcuffs being secured on Dale's wrists and him getting pulled from the room.
"So, something new I should know about?" Asked Mike
May 7, 2007. Prince George
The ride in the RCMP cruiser was a fun experience for Cameron: who decided that sitting in the front seat of the patrol car was much nicer than to be confined in the back behind the prisoner wall. It had taken a few phone calls to PG’s public works to get permission to visit the ‘Solid Waste Management Compound’, he would have to remember that calling it the ‘dump’ didn’t go over well with the officials he’d spoken with. He had a school science project about waste recycling and wanted to get first-hand information which would score extra credits for his report.
Even before passing through the gates a certain something special hung in the air, and when both Cameron and his RCMP guard exited the car the smell intensified to the point of gaging. However, once Cameron figured out how to filter it, both he and his guard didn’t even notice it. The tour was very informative with Cameron asking many questions that surprised the site supervisor at his knowledge and keenness to learn. When Cameron wanted to know "how much recyclable material was in a truckload of garbage?" The supervisor remarked that the true amount wasn’t known – so Cameron asked if he could sort a load. The guide said it could take a person several days to sort through that much garbage but Cameron assured him it would be very quick. A space was set aside and a loaded truck was emptied, once the truck had left Cameron approached it and made the pile disappear in a flash, only to reappear in separated stacks and neat piles. The supervisor and guard were astounded but quickly composed themselves, it was arranged for each pile to be weighed or measured which confirmed Cameron’s numbers, the supervisor suggested the same be done with two more loads to build an average, Cameron was happy to comply.
Cameron had plenty of notes to complete his science project and thanked the supervisor for his time, before leaving Cameron made what sounded like an odd request: "would they mind if he took some garbage?" He explained that he needed some raw materials to put into his ‘Warehouse’ and garbage seemed like a good source that might benefit everyone. The site supervisor took him to an inactive area and said to take all he wanted, Cameron walked about with his arms outstretched as large spans of the piled refuse disappeared in a pale blue light, he asked about being allowed to come back for a refill and was told ‘anytime’.
May 15, 2007, Provincial Courthouse
Mike and Karen along with Ray Martin the RCMP special investigator, stood in the hallway outside chambers giving Cameron a minute to compose himself, the youth was seated and in a state of bewilderment; collectively they attempted to give him a debrief of what had just happened. Mike had argued that mediation of Cameron’s case had failed due to the MCO’s acting in bad faith, as evidenced by their ongoing efforts to harm Cameron. So litigation would commence and the parties would go to trial, the MCO then made claim from out of left field that they were a Federally mandated organization and did not fall under Provincial jurisdiction.
Judge Wilkins agreed that the trial should be moved up to Federal Court, and in an apologetic manner dismissed his involvement. Ray added his opinion regarding the move of venue and felt this was the best possible result since a federal trial would have more teeth; should the outcome be favorable – but Cameron worried that it could expose Grace and Marcus as mutants as they would be his key witnesses.
Mike explained an additional twist; while he was in a sidebar conversation with the Judge, Mike was being recommended to get seconded up into the federal system to continue as Cameron’s attorney. They had all sorts of details to arrange, not the least being a trial moved to Ottawa: where the MCO was registered and their mandated headquarters. The group made their way to Mikes office, before the discussion could continue in earnest Mike’s phone rang.
“Mike Williamson here… yes, I’m with Cameron Burke … I see, I will ask.” setting the phone aside “Cameron the RCMP have a situation they need your help with, a freight train has derailed and cargo is contaminating the River, they feel you’re the quickest response."
“I’m ready to go” Cameron’s volunteered without hesitation.
“Your guard is getting briefed” said Mike as a phone rang a few feet away “be careful” was Mike's parting direction.
Cameron was shuttled by the RCMP via lights and sirens to an awaiting jet-boat to be outfitted with a lifejacket and waterproof poncho, a description of what had happened was provided; a freight train had derailed in a section of track between two creeks along the Fraser River, the spot was isolated and had no road access, emergency response was limited and time of the essence. Multiple cars had spilled their contents into the River, it was a mixed bag of freight: coal and scrap metal in open top cars, assorted items in boxcars like cars and furniture, various items in c-cans. The train had been 75 cars long; it was the trains crew who reported the accident within minutes of it derailing.
Cameron focused his sight to watch the River once they had boarded the jet-boat and they began to shoot up the river, the little boat zipped along with a big rooster-tail behind the jet motor. It wasn’t long before Cameron began to see pollutants in the water, positioning himself in the bow of the boat: he began to collect all foreign material out of the water. As they approached the disaster site: the railcars could be seen piled up into heaps of twisted jagged metal, it had mashed together so badly that it was hard to distinguish in places one car from another. The remains of eight open top cars sat within the River and several more had spilled their loads which lay strewn about with some cargo ended up in the water.
Cameron worked against the swift current which wanted to sweep the trains contents downstream thereby polluting the River, gathering up all the debris he methodically worked cleaning the water and river bottom adjacent to the accident site and then cleared a short distance up the embankment to prevent further contaminants from reaching the water. As the jet-boat crept forward it permitted Cameron to make an even larger buffer between the wreckage and Rivers edge, the jet-boat beached and the small crew stepped ashore.
A contingent of men who had been clambering over the mangled freight cars approached and identified themselves as being with the railroad company, they had been flown in and joined the trains crew to begin surveying the accident site. These men had been endeavoring to determine the cause of the derailment and been detailing the damage by photographing the scene, they had been distracted watching Cameron in the River and simply could not fathom what they had just witnessed.
Cameron stood trying to take in the retched vista when his sight caught a frightful image: three bodies inside an overturned and upended boxcar. Calling out for help Cameron cleared a beeline path directly up to what he feared might be casualties, flashes of pale blue light resulted in the disappearacne of whole railcars instantly. In Cameron’s frantic haste to reach the people, he started to stagger causing an officer to step beside him and lend support - cautioning him to pace himself. Pausing for a moment to catch his breath he attempted to assess the three while still 20 yards away, relieved to find that all three had lived - but sustained serious injuries. As rapidly as he could he cleared a wide swath up to the railcar – then the boxcars side disappeared displaying that the car was full of mattresses: which explained how the occupants survived but hadn’t prevented injuries as the train cars cascaded into each other.
Cameron directed the rescuers to each survivor and let others extract them, the first rescued was the one which looked to have the most critical wounds. Cameron could see the collapsed lung and crushed chest – steadying himself he remembered Graces first aid instruction: breathing first! Kneeling beside the severely injured boy he set about healing the skeletal and muscular damage around the lungs and heart, when the heart was able to pump more easily an open wound began to bleed freely which Cameron mended rapidly before blood loss would endanger the young mans life. Once Cameron was confident that the worst of the young boys injuries had been cared for, Cameron asked someone to watch over him while Cameron then switched to another of the victims that had been extracted. The second patient; a young girl, had a broken hip and leg, as well as cracked all the ribs on her left side - no doubt making her breathing laboured. Again attending to breathing first Cameron rejoined ribs and as the lungs began to rise and fall the colour returned to the young ladies face. Interupted Cameron was called over to the third person just being freed by the rescuers, a child who’s serious head injury sent a shudder down Cameron’s back, she also had a broken shoulder and arm - but her unresponsive state had warranted the rescuers concern. Cameron began a deep scan of the girls brain and found damage had occurred to the soft tissue when the cranium was crushed, Cameron patched together the skull fractures then relieving the swelling and knitted together the brain as best as the situation allowed, he repaired the broken bones before returning to the young woman he’d helped before.
She was conscious and responsive now that she could breath, but stayed immobile as undoubtedly the pain her injuries would create must be screaming at her. Kneeling beside her Cameron noted an aurora around her head, he gently asked if she would allow him to render aid? A puzzled look was all Cameron received until a slight head nod was given, so Cameron focused on her nervous system to block pain receptors before starting to reconnect the broken hip and leg bones. One of the railroaders had called for help over a satellite phone which had dispatched the medivac helicopter, the air ambulance arrived setting down in a clearing amid the wreckage which Cameron had opened up. Grace jumped out attired as the emergency inflight nurse, and after giving Cameron a brief hug attended to the injured three, Cameron gave her a commentary on the damage each had sustained and what had been repaired as Grace conducted physical exams.
Graces three patients got secured onto beds and loaded into the helicopter. Before sealing up the doors Grace tossed Cameron a small backpack and gave a thumbs up as the helicopters engine wailed warming up with the blades beginning to rotate. Stepping away Cameron opened the pack to find it filled with granola bars, fruit, and water bottles (ah, the voice of experience speaks) thought Cameron. Taking a break Cameron sat and gratefully opened a drink, everyone onsite stopped and collected together around Cameron who shared the provisions. A message had been received that the railway would send recovery equipment, clean-up crews, and track rebuilding teams who could start arriving tomorrow, it was going to take a week for the railways teams to clear the tracks and get them open again. Cameron was quiet for a minute inwardly scanning the contents held in his Warehouse and checked his battery then looked around at the disaster site.
"What's going to happen to all this debris?" Was Cameron's sincere question
The railroad folks reply was uncertain as their foremost concern was to get trains moving again: this cargo was lost to them and would just be disposed of.
Cameron’s next question of “Can I have it?” derived blank stares from the men
Eventually one of the group hazarded a response of "Sure”.
It had been a long day, Cameron was weary from having walked the length of the accident several times, dematerializing the destroyed railcars and their contents had been a huge drain upon his energy reserve, his battery once more showing depletion. Each railcar had to be cataloged and photographed which took time before moving on to the next. The Warehouse’ barely registered everything that had been cast into it, but it all sat there - nicely sorted and piled awaiting future use. The accident scene had been very neatly cleansed with all spilled contents having been removed and the mangled railcars gone. The tracks had been left alone as the accident investigators wanted to trace what had caused the upset, the area still had scars however: the earth had deep gouges and trees had been torn out of the ground and splintered.
The railroad investigators huddled together to discuss what each had witnessed and build a theory as to the cause for the accident. Cameron approached the group and returned to them a wheel set that had seemed odd to Cameron since one wheel had fractured in half, this held the railways attention for a long time. Cameron gave the group room to continue their discussion allowing himself a moment to gauge how to breach the topic of the untouched c-can: its misshapen husk sitting alone in contrast to the otherwise debris free area. Cameron hadn’t known what to do with the radioactive material being transported inside. The stunned expressions from the group confirmed that its presence was not anticipated. Cameron described what was within the still sealed c-can; all the contents being of a military nature: guns, ammunition, and other weapons. However, the radioactive cargo that was being shipped had been held in 6 sealed containers looking like steel drums having containment packaging layered inside, all of the drums had damage but two had split open allowing radioactivity to release and spread throughout the c-can.
The railway men gathered what information they could about the shipping container before sheepishly asking if Cameron was able to ‘dispose’ of radioactive waste?
Cameron had learned to draw from the suns radiation but this had a different feel to it, nasty – raw, unfiltered, the very reason he didn’t touch it earlier. Cameron tentatively said he would try, stepping close to the metal container he reached out to get a feel for the radioactivity, the decaying nuclear energy it gave off was not so dissimilar to removing heat from an object to cool it, but it took some toying with the atomic structure to drain away the energy, he’d started with just a small spot but could now widen out and clear all trace, the result ended up being a nice boost into his near empty battery. The RCMP asked that the c-can contents be left in place so this shipping container could be investigated.
Cameron had difficulty remaining awake for the trip back, he was exhausted and kept nodding off as he rested awkwardly against his RCMP guard in the jet boat. When they swapped vehicles he also quickly fell asleep in the truck on the return back to the safe house. At dinner he polished off three servings of lasagna: a new record, and was hardly cognisant to everybody’s fingers pointing him to his bedroom that evening.
May 16, 2007. Prince George RCMP Safe House
Cameron had not awoken feeling rested - wanting to still sleep for a couple hours more, yesterday had put too great a strain upon him physically. The smell of pancakes and Abby’s cheerful wake-up call couldn’t be ignored, so ‘Grumpy’ rolled out of bed and was the target of teasing and merriment until getting pushed out the front door to face the day. The RCMP had sent a car to pick-up Cameron and bring him to the office, an official record of yesterday had to be filed along with a statement about the weapons cache.
This wasn’t the first time Cameron had entered the RCMP station, on those prior occasions, typically the officers present would give him a glance – a few would acknowledge him. Today stepping through the doors: all eyes locked on him then applause erupted, Cameron modestly bowed his head, the Captain walked up and shook his hand in thanks - as he directing Cameron to a conference room.
Mike was the first to move when Cameron entered “See! the returning hero.” stated Mike to Cameron’s reddened cheeks.
The room held men from the railway who each expressed thanks and their congratulations which abated Cameron’s nervousness. Cameron provided them a description for the record of what he had found and done, printing off an inventory of everything that had been cleaned up, and provided detailed maps of the accident site showing the placement of each car. The men excitedly pouring over the information Cameron had given saying it was ideal to help establishing the events and cause, plus it would help settle everything with insurance. The men spotted an anomaly in Cameron’s inventory: he listed a number of automobiles that did not correspond with the railways records, a search on the police database showed them to be stolen and likely getting shipped overseas, stepping outside Cameron manifested the three rare cars: a 58 Corvette, a Lamborghini Countach, and an Austin Martin Vantage. They had not faired well in the train wreck, the destroyed masterpieces elicited groans from the car buffs present. Photos collected and notifications sent to the owners that their cars had been found.
Returning to the meeting room the Railroad rep’s broached the subject of payment, causing Cameron’s mouth to drop and run like a scared rabbit spurting out how he could return all the trains contents. The men reassuringly told Cameron that he could keep what had been collected from the accident since the railway’s insurance covered the loss of freight. They actually wanted to find out how much Cameron wanted to be paid for his efforts? Mike took the lead and asked what an incident such as this might cost the company, their figures astounded the youth – needless to say Mike’s suggestion of a half million brought smiles to the railway company reps, ‘a very agreeable price’ using their words, they also offered Cameron a VIP Card granting him rail passage anytime.
As the meeting ended, Mike remained to discuss the trial, Ray and John from Special Investigations joining them, Ray began by explaining how moving Cameron’s case up to Federal Court would tie into many of the other crimes that SI had been investigating against the MCO. A successful judgement would establish a precedence that would benefit other folks; possibly including Grace’s arrest and shooting. SI was putting a lot of eggs into Cameron’s basket because so many had been hurt by the MCO. Cameron’s role would be pivotal toward building a successful case and bringing the MCO to justice. The question put forward was: How did Cameron feel about going to trial?
Cameron could not expose his friends – especially without speaking with them about it first, Grace and Marcus had spent years running and hiding just so they could have their own lives, Cameron would not take that away from them. The meeting ended with Cameron only being able to say he would think it over. Next came providing the RCMP statements which took several hours.
Climbing into the safe-house truck, his guard asked “Where to?” which was a first.
Cameron had to pause before responding “Can we go see the accident survivors?” which his driver called in and was approved by dispatch.
The three young people pulled from the wreckage had been admitted into PG hospital as: John, Jane and Zoey Doe, none had identification on them and the two older ones had refused to give their names, the third was unconscious still and in the Intensive Care Unit. The RCMP had posted an officer at the door who Cameron recognized as being from his own guard detail and spoke for a short time joking about how Cameron was no longer good enough for him. Cameron was granted entrance and found the male confined to bed: although awake and responsive, he now had a high intensity glow emitting from his torso, the female still had that aurora around her head: she was seated in a chair beside the male.
“Hello, my name is Cameron, are you two up to having a visitor?”
“You were at the train yesterday?” quizzed the girl.
“Yes, I helped tend to your injuries” replied Cameron “Are you feeling better?”
“I remember you: you’re a mutant!” stated the girl.
“No, actually, I’m not, but I do have abilities” calmly answered Cameron.
“If you have powers you must be a mutant” stated the boy in a curt ‘matter of fact’ way.
“Honestly, nobodies been able to explain that just yet so a verdict hasn't come in, but I’ve got a card that says I’m not a mutant if you’d like to see it... is it that why you’re scared - because your both mutants?” Cameron linked their concern together with what he could see.
“We aren’t” was all the boy got out before the girl put a hand on his shoulder interrupting him “We can trust him, I read him, he won’t turn us over."
“Okayyy, can we start over? Hi, I’m Cameron."
“I’m Rachelle, and my brother Tim” motioned the girl to the bedded boy “you’ve met our little sister Charlotte."
“And am I right in saying you’re …?” Asked Cameron waiting for them to make the admission.
“Twins? yes we are – though not identical."
“Can’t see the resemblance” returned Cameron, briefly lifting his visor.
“How did you get anyone to believe you’re not a mutant?” barked Tim.
“It’s not in my blood” responded Cameron, then focused deep and saw the telltale genetic markers in the twins “how long ago did you manifest?”
“You’re with the Police! Heard you real chummy with them outside the door” complained Tim.
“No, well yes – they’re my guards! Ohh that sounds bad. I’m being protected! and they’ve been really good to me” defended Cameron.
“He’s telling partial truths” interjected Rachelle.
“And you’ve been playing me the fool, not a nice way to treat someone who has only ever tried to help you." stated Cameron. "I didn’t come to interrogate you or turn you over to the MCO. I’m the one that found you wedged between mattress’s, helped heal your wounds. And I came to see you because I was worried about you... Good enough?” exclaimed Cameron as he stared at Rachelle who gave a slight head nod “Then would you kindly get outta my head!” Rachelle nodded as Cameron felt the pressure at his temples ebb.
“Listen, we’re sorry, we’ve had to hide who / what we are for a year, our father hates mutants. He's a Humanity First chapter leader, but he didn’t find out about us until our sister began to manifest– she was building up into burnout and needed medical help” explained Tim. "Keeping what we are secret has become second nature, sorry we didn’t trust you”.
“I do understand. So what …? You ran away?” responded Cameron letting their effort at playing him go.
“No, Dad ran us out of town, he’s a sergeant with the Calgary Police, and he sic’d the MCO after us, we managed to escape and found a train heading to the coast."
“Vancouver?” asked Cameron to an affirmative nod “someplace to go there?”
“There’s a team of hero mutants, hoped they might be able to help us” added Rachelle.
Cameron mused for a second “The MCO are chasing their tails in town right now and definitely under staffed, you should be safe from them for a time here. The Mounties just have a man outside to protect you, although the railroad folks might need to ask you questions in case you know how-come the train derailed. All in all, no immediate danger." assured Cameron "Now, should we check up on your sister?”
The twins nodded agreement however Tim needed to stay put since his wounds still had him immobile. Cameron’s dutiful guard walked a few steps behind Rachelle and Cameron as they made their way across the hospital to the ICU ward.
“You know your way around!” surmised Rachelle.
“Spent a lot of time here” was the pained response
"You're not normal, are you?" Questioned Rachelle in a whisper.
"Nice of you to notice" was Cameron's similarly spoken reply with an added smirk "Why do you ask?"
"Your mind, it's too organized and structured for a kid"
"I don't know what to say to that... it's the only mind I'm familiar with." After a brief moment he asked "Do you think I'm dangerous?"
"No, I wouldn't have let you help us if you were" assured Rachelle "but you have a major presence, you stand out!"
"That can't be good!" Sighed Cameron "anyway to turn it down?"
"Maybe, I'm new to this stuff, but I'll help you if you like."
"I would appreciate it greatly" smiled Cameron “ICU is just down this corridor."
As usual ICU was a hub of activity, a constant din emitting from banks of monitors tracking vital signs, the nurses station directed the pair to a room housing a terrified looking child. The wires and tubes twisted like snakes across the girl, the high pitched scream of “Rach!” cut through the entire ward who seemed to stop for a second, the girls’ sister bounded over the distance to the bed and gently touched the little ones’ face.
“What happened to you? I though you guys died!” whispered the bedded girl as tears worked their way down a face released from anxiety.
“They have us in another room, Tim’s okay but needs to rest – but trust you to get the royal treatment!” joked the older sister.
“Really?” puzzled the wide eyed girl.
“Sure, only special people get this kind of attention” added the older sister just as a nurse entered into the room hearing the tone of the conversation.
“How is our Princess doing?” chimed the good natured ICU nurse “Ohh! Cameron. Your back! Are you hurt?”
“Not this time, and I’m doing well – thanks to you! Do you know which Doctor will be taking care of our guest?” commented Cameron.
“They have Amanda on a plane, she will be here within the hour” informed the nurse.
“Wow, she’s the best! Your gonna love her” added Cameron with a smile, observing the energy field around the little girl no more the twelve years old.
“Char, this is Cameron – he’s okay!” introduced Rachelle “Cameron – Charlotte."
“I am honoured to meet you” spoke Cameron with a small bow “are you feeling okay?”
“I’m dizzy and my head hurts, and really tired” replied the girl “Why do you have sunglasses on?”
“My eyes unsettle people so I keep them covered” answered Cameron.
“Can I see them?” asked Charlotte.
“I would be glad to show you later, when your feeling better” Cameron told the girl as the attending physician entered the room “Hi Doc! how are you today?"
“Cameron, good to see you again, I was told you lent a hand with my patients” joked the doctor.
“I had to use some of what you guys taught me… but, umm, doc, is there a way to keep these three’s identities secret – they had to escape from home, and if their Dad knows where they are - it could be dangerous for them” requested Cameron.
“I can contact Child Services, a social worker will need to talk with them. Is that going to be all-right?” asked the doctor looking to Rachelle who slowly nodded in agreement.
Grace arrived at the hospital after her shift at the Care Centre, Cameron had asked if she would be able to stop by, she greeted Cameron in the hallway with a hug lifting him off the ground and spinning him around “You did great!” she beamed, ruffling his short hair.
“So you, in a helicopter?” smiled Cameron.
“What! I am a fully qualified nurse after all. With EMT experience. They were glad I volunteered to go!” remarked the exemplar.
“And! I was very happy to see you – and, the backpack was appreciated. Thank you.” was Cameron’s gracious reply “Would you like to meet the kids?”
“Kids? kind of odd to call them that, two of them looked to be older than you!” chuckled Grace.
“Oh, hardy har” retorted Cameron, “I don't understand half of what they say, and they keep looking at me like I'm from the Stone Age."
"Sound like typical teenagers to me!" Reassured Grace, "You feeling out of place?"
"Only by eight years and a million miles" was Cameron's dejected response, "come on, I’ll introduce you."
Entering into ICU with Grace was like a homecoming parade, everyone knew her and greeted her warmly. The lighting in Charlotte’s room had been dimmed to help relieve her headache: Rachelle and Tim who was up and about in a wheelchair sat with their sister. Cameron introduced Grace who Rachelle recognized from the helicopter ride. The meet and greet went over great once they found out Grace was also a mutant.
The three started to relax more and open up after the social worker had arranged protective custody, and would find a safe place for them to stay when released from hospital.
Dr. Amanda had arrived earlier and been able to make progress with Charlotte, her headaches had worsened and Cameron had been asked to scan her a couple times then point out from medical texts what he had seen. After a couple attempts he produced a good image of Charlottes brain for Amanda, it turned out to be most helpful in letting Amanda discern what was wrong; then she needed to make some consultation calls. The doctor had made her diagnosing and returned to find a crowded ICU room.
“Grace, so nice to see you” exclaimed the Doctor.
“Amanda, your back in town. I take it you have another patient” remarked Grace giving the white cloaked woman a hug.
“I was brought in to help yet another special patient” winked the doctor. “Is this a good time to talk?” looking about the room, “I need to speak with Charlotte, but would like to have Cameron here as well?”
All heads nodded agreement so the doctor commenced to explain the situation: Charlotte’s headaches stemmed from her BIT responding to the injuries incurred during the accident. Cameron wasn’t familiar with that expression so needed to ask what a BIT is, once it was explained - Charlottes condition was described, Charlotte was very young to have manifested: typically, when someone is entering puberty the release of hormones is deemed to trigger mutation. It is not completely unheard of in pre-pubescent individuals to manifest earlier, but it's rare and always presents problems. Charlotte’s mutation included having a BIT – or body image template, the accident kick-started her BIT which was now forcing her body to alter to fit that ‘mold’, her body was trying to protect itself but hurting her in the process.
Cameron was concerned that he might have caused this to happen and voiced his worry. Dr. Amanda relieved his doubt: saying instead that Cameron had done the best thing possible as it actually slowed Charlottes BIT and prevented it from accelerating wildly before Charlotte was ready. Amanda was hoping Cameron might be able to help further by convincing Charlottes BIT to in effect go into remission, hopefully waiting until she was a little older and would be able to handle the changes without inflicting so much pain. A conference call was arranged with Dr. Nelson at Arkham to go over the details of what Cameron was being asked to do, Rachelle and Tim wanted to be part of that conversation while Grace asked to stay with Charlotte.
Grace moved into the chair bedside as the room cleared, she looked closely at the little girl in bed and smiled.
“Your very pretty” remarked Charlotte.
“Why thank you, you’re the cutest princess I’ve ever meet” replied Grace.
“I’m not really a princess, my brother and sister just call me that to make me feel better."
“Does it? Make you feel better?”
“It reminds me that they love me, and are worried about me."
“You’ve had a rough go haven’t you?"
“My first burnout was bad, when I had to go to the hospital - they almost lost me cause I was so hot. Then Dad” Char paused as painful memories swept across her “If it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t have had to run away, now we’re lost – and, and, its my fault!”
“You’re not to blame, people hate what they fear, and honestly, your too adorable to be scared of” soothed Grace.
“Then why did Daddy push us away?” begged Charlotte.
“Ohhh hon, change can be hard, you didn’t make your Dad do anything, he chose to let hatred fill his heart – maybe in time he’ll see the life he’s missing out on, but you aren’t to blame."
“Do you have kids?” was Charlotte’s sincere question.
“I… No, I don’t have any children” stumbled Grace.
“Cameron isn’t your kid?” queried Charlotte.
“I’m not that old! he’s just a really good friend” blushed Graced.
“You’d be a great mom, are you married?” the inquisitive girl asked.
“Thank you, and yes – I’m married” responded Grace “which reminds me, - I should give him a call and tell him what’s happening, would you like to meet my husband?”
“Sure” brightened Charlotte.
“I’ll ask if he can come over” replied Grace as she speed dialed Marcus “Hi hon, I’m at the hospital – no Cameron isn’t hurt again, he has however made some new friends, would you like to come over and meet them? Okay, great, see you in a bit” closing up her phone Grace leaned closer to Charlotte “he’s a sweetheart, you’ll like him”.
The briefing that Dr. Nelson gave provided an outline of what was generally known about BIT’s and how they interacted with DNA, Cameron had studied DNA up close and personal, so when the information Arkham showed them described a BIT as an overlay onto DNA he could grasp what was happening to Charlotte and understood what the Doctors wanted him to do. Cameron was not to interfere with the DNA or BIT just slow down her bodies sped up metabolism which had triggered a violent assertion of the BIT which was too soon for Char’s young body. The consequences of not helping Charlotte would be disastrous – most likely fatal so her siblings agreed that Cameron should do what was needed.
Entering the ICU room, they found Grace and Marcus playing a game of ‘go fish’ with Charlotte, Marcus was introduced to Rachelle and Tim with Cameron mentioning that Marcus was a fantastic singer. all three literally begged to hear him with Cameron indicating to Grace that he needed Charlotte distracted, Grace supplied the egging that convinced Marcus to perform: he mesmerized the audience with ‘Blue Bayou’ a Roy Orbison tune that Linda Ronstadt did wonders with. Cameron was distracted himself but managed to deal with the task of cleansing Charlottes body: removing the build-up of hormones and antibodies that had been accelerating growth and causing the little girl distress.
Cameron finished before Marcus had concluded his song, his audience transfixed by his performance – even Tim was humming along. Cameron gave Grace and Amanda a nod to indicate ‘all’s good’ while Marcus took in his accolades, but when Charlotte wrapped him in a hug and kissed his cheek exclaiming “he’s magical cause her head didn’t hurt anymore” the tall stick of a man had a lump form in his throat and had a tear track down his face.
Cameron sought a quiet moment in a private space at the hospital to be able to speak with Grace and Marcus about the court case, much hinged over how they felt about testifying and the possibility of losing their anonymity, after a very brief moment with having them looking into each others eyes, Marcus spoke up saying “We have talked a lot about this, and knew by stepping forward it could mean giving up our identities, we’re both tired of running and hiding, it’s time to make the bullies and hate-mongers of this world face the music. Let’s give them hell!”.
June 29, 2007, Undisclosed Location outside Prince George BC.
It was a beautiful day, as summers in Northern BC are known to be, the fragrance from the mixed pine and spruce forest carried sweetly in the air while the light breeze was warmly refreshing, puffy white clouds rolled peacefully across the sky taking on whimsical shapes limited only by the imaginations of the three youths watching them pass overhead. Cameron, Charlotte and Abby lazily lay on a grassy knoll absorbed in the simple pleasure of seeing the procession of fancy march past as they pointed out creatures they found pictured within the rolls and wisps.
Todays chores had all been finished with the lawn cut and garden weeded, groceries unpacked and laundry done, they were young – free – and it was time to play, the place that adults worldwide dream of returning to - rooted as their fondest memories, which must have come from just such a time, and yet for the youth living at such a precious moment: they are in a hurry to grow-up and meet the world.
Laughter sprang from the hearts abundance as the three just enjoyed the company of friends, being silly wasn’t a crime, hope flourished, and dreams, well - dreams are a hard topic for Cameron, he had received several in the last few nights, some filled him with anticipation while others scared him so deeply he would awake sweating. He had been able to plot out a course for himself: his application to attend Whateley Academy had been accepted – Marcus as an alumni had agreed to vouch for him, Mike had allocated funds to pay for school and he would continue as his guardian; Joan, Kathy, and Dr. Nelson at Arkham had provided input to complete the application.
Cameron was asked to arrive before the other students would be coming to start the semester at Whateley – so his plan was to be there ahead of the September long weekend. However, he had mixed feelings: is there such a thing as being excitedly scared?
The trial was set to begin in Federal Court July 16 in Ottawa, where the MCO was headquartered, with proceedings expected to last roughly 5 weeks. Leaving a little time to shop for school essentials before having to arrive in New Hampshire.
It had been the most unexpected surprise when Marcus and Grace volunteered to become Rachelle, Tim, and Charlottes guardians, at least temporarily until they figured out what they wanted to do. Best of all, instead of a foster home, Cameron had been able to arrange additional accommodations at the safe house, turns out the RCMP had rented the place which was ‘for sale’, Cameron discussed it with Mike and he arranged for it to be bought, they had a recreational vehicle brought in which Cameron moved into letting the three siblings have the original house. Abby was perhaps the happiest of them all, she had a handful of family to tease and torment, she was infectious spreading a closeness that everyone yearned for but only came about because she was a source of innocence and a peacemaker; such is the power of Abby.
Earlier that week, one night all the talented youth sat around a campfire and they began to discuss what each other could do powers wise. Who was the strongest? Fastest? Smartest? As each began to show off their powers, Abby asked what hers’ was? Charlotte: the dear heart, said Abby was the most powerful in the group as she had boundless love, and there is nothing in heaven or on earth stronger than love. Charlotte was easily second as she was an energizer / exemplar blend and even though she hadn’t fully manifested yet - she was a force to be reckoned with, and the first showings of her BIT hinted toward a future beauty. Third would be Tim who was a speedster with mild regeneration, and fourth in the group was Rachelle simply because she had a very weak exemplar trait although no physical ability to speak of, but as a psychic she could hold her own and she was devious in creative ways. Cameron didn’t have a classification; some speculation said manefestor or energiser, rumours mentioned psychic or wizard, and lately devisor was bantered about. The fact was that nobody knew for sure just what Cameron was - and Cameron liked it that way.
Today felt bittersweet to Cameron, tomorrow he would start his trek eastward, so this was his last chance to be home – or what had at least by default become home. To be with friends, cherish these who had become family, in a way it felt like his life was ending with tomorrow looming like a huge question mark. The packed bags sitting beside the door showed an anticipation for what lay beyond, but his heart dreaded each tick of the clock as it brought goodbyes closer and those were simply going to hurt. At least Grace and Marcus would be joining him for the first leg – as Cameron knew having to say goodbye to those two would shatter him.
Joyce had put much work into the preparations for dinner; and it turned into a sumptuous feast and a full blown celebration, Mike and Karen had been flying often between PG and Ottawa but managed to be present, along with Marcus and Grace, and three of the RCMP guards who had become close. Dr. Joan and even Auntie Annie had been able to come for one of her rare visits - since she had been adopted by all the young ones: who had each received either socks, toques, or scarfs from the fast and furious knitting needles. Hugs were abundant as people started to leave, over the meal it had been resolved that there was to be no goodbye’s - only ‘See You Soon’s’. Cameron was emotionally torn as each friend parted, sleep was elusive when nightfall came.
June 30, 2007, Highway 16 east of Prince George
Grace, Marcus and Cameron had planned to make an early start of leaving town, the three arranged for a short holiday together in Jasper National Park before Cameron continued to travel on to Ottawa, they had piled into Marcus’s pick-up to drive the four hours to Jasper, an RCMP guard was assigned to follow discretely and keep tabs on them until an officer from central dispatch would join up and take-over in Jasper.
The send-off from the safe house had indeed been tough, Abby had decided to put Cameron into a bear hug until the very last minute, the situation would have broken a far stronger man; so Cameron didn’t mind the tears as he parted company with these his good friends, his new family.
Marcus started the travelers into singing as the distance separating them from what had been safe haven widened, it might have just been another singing lesson for Cameron; but it was joyful, and brought the three closer together. At a point in the road, Grace gently put her hand onto Marcus’s arm and he slowed the vehicle to a stop, Grace turned to Cameron in the back seat who asked “What’s up?”
Grace spoke softly saying “Cameron, we aren’t sure if your ready for this, but this is where the accident that killed your family happened."
Cameron sighed deeply, shoulders sagging, he knew they would be following the same route his family had taken that dreadful day, but the separation between knowing and doing is vast. “Mind if I take some time and collect my thoughts."
Marcus replied “All the time you need."
Cameron walked the lonely roadside, finding small pieces from the vehicle his family had died in, he opened a little pit and laid the remnants in it, a stream was nearby which Cameron wandered over to and sat on a rock watching the water cascade down the channel, it was peaceful and serene, the water passed by gurgling and splashing: hidden within the waters passage he thought he heard his brother’s cheerful taunts, the sweet voice of his mother giving encouragement, as well as talking of beautiful things in her art books, then the comforting words of her father after a thunderstorm had past. Cameron thought he’d run out of tears with parting from the PG safe house, he was wrong.
Cameron was roused from his meditation by a softly asked “Excuse me” a young woman had approached Cameron atop his perch at waters edge, she was carrying a large camera “Did you know the family that was killed in the accident?”
“ah, Hi, I hadn’t expected you so soon, I’m Cameron Burke, it was my family that died” sniffed Cameron gathering his emotions “you’re wanting to interview me?” spoke Cameron as he gestured to Grace and Marcus that he was okay.
“Yes, how did you know?” puzzled the woman, she looked so young she must just be fresh out of school.
“That is a much longer story than we have time for today, but you want to know about the accident” stated Cameron.
“I was told to get some stock footage by my boss – something about building up public sympathy for the MCO, but I think I’ll get a better story from you” informed the woman, setting down the camera then readying a microphone.
“Get footage of the area as well to keep your boss happy, do you want to ask questions or just have me talk? And sorry - your name?”
“Cindi, Cindi Nuefeld, just you talking will work fine” said Cindi motioning for permission to hook the tiny clip mic to Cameron’s shirt.
Cameron’s affirmative nod, a quick sound check and positioning to catch the best light, then Cameron began to recount the events leading up to the accident, he left out the names of his rescuers but detailed the carnage, gave an overview of his injuries and coma, waking up after almost 8 years, discovering his life had been shattered – he left out the sex change as it was too personal for public consumption, then spoke about the MCO inquisition and assassination attempts. Wrapping up Cameron handed Cindi a DVD, explaining that he had pieced together some interesting video clips and photos. He then asked a favour – she wasn’t to show this to her current boss as he was a Humanity First stooge, instead - take it to a station in Vancouver, and don’t let it air until the trial in Ottawa was underway.
As Cameron climbed back into Marcus’ truck, the pair watched him like vultures until he had gotten buckled in and comfy; “You remember my saying how sometimes I have dreams that come true, this was one of those times."
Cameron had played twenty questions before and knew what it was like to be in the hotseat – this felt more like the Spanish Inquisition (naturally: he hadn’t been expecting that). Cameron now needed to describe for Marcus and Grace the 'other' times he had experienced a dream being fulfilled, another ‘time’ had been when the sniper had shot at him: he had practised hard to absorb kinetic energy and was greatly relieved when it worked.
The shared look between Grace and Marcus and the follow-up question of "Was that around the time you had Abby throwing stuff at you?"
"Yup, needed to figure out how to draw off the energy ... something wrong?"
"Oh no, not really, it's just that Dr. Joan asked us to watch out for other signs of self abuse like bruises or cut marks" supplied Grace "You couldn't have told us about this back then?"
"I tried but nobody understood, and I really didn't want to be under the microscope any longer. Besides; do you want everyone to know everything about you?"
The rest of the drive was spent in conversation and some singing.
They entered Jasper National Park later that afternoon, the gate attendant handing them maps and a brochure explaining ‘You’re in Bear Country’ it detailed what to do if you encountered a bear in it’s natural habitat – the three discussed the information until it was firmly ingrained in Cameron’s memory.
July 01, 2007. Jasper National Park
Cameron stepped out of the rustic log cabin that was his private hotel room for the Canada Day long weekend, Marcus and Grace had the one next door as each cabin only had a single bedroom, the setting was quaint and quiet as it was nestled along the pristine Athabasca River, the view was majestic with the high mountain peaks surrounding them without a cloud in sight. When they had arrived yesterday afternoon; they did some nearby hiking - then walked through the town. Marcus found a pub that had Karaoke so they had dinner there; and it was an absolute blast singing, the waitress was dismissive when Cameron showed his ID saying he was 21 since he could hardly pass for 14, but since he didn’t have any alcohol to drink the issue wasn’t pressed, but it did become a joke when other patrons’ started buying the table drinks due to Marcus’ masterful voice.
Today's plan was to be a boat tour of Maligne Lake and more hiking; which meant the group needed to leave early to make the most of the day. While Cameron might not have been able to see the spectacle unfold around him as normal people might, he was wonder struck by the natural beauty surrounding him, he took in every detail and pointed out the amazing wildlife that was hidden to folks without benefit of magnified thermographic sight. Marcus filled memory card after memory card snapping photos, his favorite topic being Grace: Grace in front of this mountain, beside that tree, by this creek: of course being that she was extremely photogenic likely played into his subject matter, this was a man deeply in love.
The boat trip was breathtaking due to the captivating scenery, the lake was as calm as a mirror, and the time passed leisurely as they enjoyed the sights, sounds and feel of the serene setting. After the tour the three headed out onto a trail for a hike that followed the lakeshore then split gaining elevation as the path rose up onto a ridge. They had been walking for about an hour when Cameron spotted ahead of them in the trees a Grizzly bear with two cubs, it hadn’t caught their scent just yet but would soon – The Parks brochure had provided the two best methods to handle bear encounters: such as scaring off a bear by being intimidating or to play dead and minimize risk. However, the most dangerous bear is a Momma with a cub; and she just caught a whiff of the trio, she let out a sound similar to a dogs bark that alerted the cubs who took to a tree and started climbing, Momma bear tore at the ground with her claws snorting her displeasure, then she made her challenging run – coming at them crashing through the undergrowth, she veered to the groups left narrowly passing by them before turning to face them again letting fly an angry roar as she stood on her hind legs, Marcus carefully touched the others and softly spoke “Back up slowly, keep your eyes looking down, make yourself look small” the three stayed close to each other as they withdrew, and Momma made a couple threatening approaches to let them know they had not retreated far enough. Cameron’s heartbeat pounded at his temples, the adrenaline rush from being scared had put his pulse into overdrive, so when he watched Momma collect her little ones and move off away from them - he finally relaxed enough to take a breath and tried to stop the shakes that had taken over his limbs. The three turned around and returned the way they had come, cautioning any other hikers they met of what had been encountered ahead. Arriving back at the trail head, they informed the Park Warden about their introduction to Momma and her two little ones so he posted a ‘Bear in Area’ warning onto that trail, and flagged it to keep people away.
They needed to return to Jasper townsite for dinner to meet up with an old friend of Marcus’, his roommate from Whateley named Percy: short for Percival (the teasing he must have gotten!), but used Buck – just Buck. Buck was waiting for them when they returned to town, he stepped out of the cab of his semi and Cameron froze: the man was over seven feet tall and weighted 500 pounds – none of it fat, Grace ran to greet him colliding into his open arms with him picking her up and giving her a hug that would have crushed rock, Cameron was awed by the big man but didn’t shy away or panic - only acting like he was a friend that he hadn’t met yet. When shaking his hand after formally being introduced, Buck thanked Cameron for not being scared. Turns out that Buck is an empath and the fear his size induced in people causes him much anxiety. Marcus’ said he knew a great place for dinner, and it wasn’t a surprise when they arrived at the Karaoke pub.
Dinner conversation was a raucous event as the two roomies reminisced about the time the two had spent together at Whateley, the two roommates exchanged tales; regaling the table with stories of adventure. Marcus eventually explained that Buck had developed a serious crush on a girl, but was too scared to talk to her so he’d taught Buck to sing: thereby gaining his voice, Cameron asked how chasing the girl went?
“I married her, Valerie and I have 3 kids” added the gentle giant with a smile that stretched across his face while presenting the photos in his wallet.
The pictured woman was petite and very pretty, looking to have Hawaiian heritage “is she related to Superman or something?” quizzed Cameron uncertain as to why so awesome a fellow would be scared by such a wisp of a girl.
“Gadgeteer. There’s many reasons a person feels fear” remarked the huge man.
Buck began a discussion about how people react to situations and from being an empath he had special insight! His philosophy was that fear was one of the central motivators in men: fear of failure, rejection, not measuring up. Fear is a good thing, it stops you from doing stupid things like jumping off a cliff, but it needs to be controlled too - otherwise you stop living and would never have climbed the mountain to see the view from atop the cliff in the first place. Marcus had been a true friend by helping build up his confidence so that he had the courage to speak to Valerie. Overcoming your fear being proof of strong character – being the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest, or richest does not make you a good person, someone always seems to come along who raises the bar on you, a true measure of a person is if they decide to use what they have and do the best they can, not shying away from what might be difficult.
Buck took the conversation into what makes a man, how many think of a man as someone who is strong, tough, and immovable: like a tree. But since many trees break in the wind because of being inflexible; having branches snap off - or even the trunk breaking in half, better for a man to be resilient and bend with the wind, because a wind will always come up in life. Cameron asked what it means for a man to be flexible? Buck elaborated that the best way would be to straight off realize that there are two things a man should never be able to defend against: His Momma’s tears and his sweethearts smile.
Grace dabbed the corner of her eye “When did you become so sweet?”
Buck lowered his head to keep others from hearing “The benefit of being big is that with a rough exterior you can be soft inside. “
Grace held his arm tight saying “I’d just say you’re a romantic!”
“There’s a reason why my Valerie loves me.” confided Buck with a contented smile.
When the Karaoke festivities began the tables focus shifted to having fun, the DJ asked that in honour of Canada Day – all songs should be Canadian, so the group of four began to make a list of songs to sing, Grace didn’t want to go solo so when Cameron asked if she would do a duet with him she jumped on board and the two began scheming.
The evening started with a number of brave souls itching to get a party started, first up was an oriental man seated with a large group on a tour, for an introduction he said he ‘lived for Karaoke’; once on stage his business man demeanour changed into that of a purebred rocker and as the first bars of Bryan Adams ‘Summer of 69’ blasted out the speakers he took the audience by storm. Next on the docket was a thin man with wild hair who played air guitar matching the rhythm of Doucette’s ‘Mama Let Him Play’, it was fun to watch as the dancers began to claim space on the dance floor, the audience was getting involved adding claps matching the beat, earnest applause was given for encouragement.
Buck rose from the table saying ‘fortune favours the bold’ and stepped onto the stage: his choice was a country tune called ‘Navajo Rug’ by Ian Tyson, he did an astoundingly good version bringing couples clad in cowboy boots and jeans down onto the dance floor who two stepped along to the melody, the audience took to hooting / sounding like owls, Buck didn’t know what to make of it but decided it was alright and bowed when finished.
The mix of songs that got sung was a cross section of country and rock – it seems the audience was not too biased, but line dancers had become a force to be reckoned with on the floor in front of the stage. Marcus and Grace joined the couples on the dance floor when something they liked played, it was heartwarming to see them both so happy in each others arms, it was obvious that Buck was missing his family but kept a smile on his face nonetheless.
The standard was pretty high in the Karaoke pub: Cameron didn’t know if he could hold up to it, but the encouragement from his teammates and Marcus’ reassurance sent Grace and he up to literally face the music. The song Cameron had suggested for them to sing as a duet was not a chart topper but required a singer to show talent - it also had a special place in Cameron’s heart: it was one of his Dad’s favourites, so when he said into the mic before the music started “For Dad” it steeled him as the DJ hit play. ‘In Your Soul’ a Cory Hart release echoed through the room as Cameron gave way to the buried emotions in his heart and laced them into each word, Grace had an amazing voice plus she moved about the stage interacting with the crowd to make it feel personal, when their voices harmonized it sent a chill down his spine. He didn’t notice the crowd, instead being intently focused upon delivery of the song and only saw Grace, he tried to mimic her movements upon the stage. As the song ended Grace rushed over to give Cameron a hug, whispering “hon, give a girl a warning next time” together they turned to look over the room, it was confusing, no one was moving, all just stood transfixed staring at the stage. Cameron shook thinking he had stunk the place out, a few camera flashes and a couple hesitant claps broke him from the onset of panic, the room erupted into sustained applause. Looking again around the room Cameron noticed that just about every woman in the audience was wiping tears away, as they stepped down from the stage folks grabbed for their hands to shake in congratulation; even asking for their names. The return to the table was fraught with unknown women giving him hugs – a gaggle of oriental tourists gathered to collect photos with him in clusters, by the time he reached the table a root beer float the size of Lake Superior awaited him: his thanks to the waitress resulted in her mauling him in a hug saying “That was beautiful”. Marcus beamed with pride saying “Can I cook or what?” Grace gave him a swat remarking “You can’t teach that” then leaned over and added to Cameron’s collection of hugs. Buck absolutely gushed as he grasped Cameron’s hand shaking it vigorously until he just resorted to pulling him in and squeezed the breath out of the boy, Cameron spied the pile of tissues in-front of the giant – knowing he had been discovered a big hand rested upon Cameron’s shoulder “allergies” was his excuse.
The DJ took a ten-minute break, which allowed the room to calm enough to proceed, the staff had to really hustle as every square inch was occupied since the place was packed. The DJ announced he was ready to begin, when no one made a move to be next; Marcus stood and took to the stage, he had noted the audiences tastes and decided upon an old classic: Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’, he simply did a marvelous job of it, it was so nice to hear many in the room singing along. Hooting seemed to be the expression of choice and it certainly caught on! All the slow dancers thanked him by giving a warm reception as he crossed the floor back to the table.
More participants gave their all, and it turned into a most memorable night, Marcus connived to have all his students sing together: so Cameron, Buck, and Marcus sang together ‘Sweet City Woman’ a Stampeders song, it met with the dancers’ approval as the dance floor was crowded and the whole area moved in unison as the line formed into a rhythm sweeping around encompassing the entire dance floor, Marcus couldn’t contain his pride as he embraced each of his pupils when the song ended, the applause was cut by hoots and an ear-splitting whistle from none other than Grace while she pistoned the air.
Seated back at the table the waitress brought them drinks: saying it was sent by an appreciative fan. Cameron of course only had a pop set down in-front of him, he turned serious for a second when he noticed there was no fizz and took a closer look at the gift drink, Grace queued upon his hesitation “What’s wrong” she asked, looking at his table mates Cameron noted that each of the beverages had been doctored, Buck was about to down his when Cameron held up his glass and said “I would like to say something ...To new friends and old friends, may joy guide your path, thank you” Cameron had needed a distraction in-order to remove the drug from the drinks, and a toast seemed appropriate to the occasion. Cameron placed the white powder he had collected into a small plastic bag then printed off a brief note of explanation and passed it to Grace, she looked at the glass in front of her with concern to which Cameron nodded and took a drink of his own to show it was safe now, Marcus had just taken a sip from his drink when the note was passed to him – you could tell he was trying to decide if he should swallow or not, a look at Cameron proved it was okay but he lowered his drink cautiously looking into the liquid, Buck had already gulped half his drink down when the note arrived to him, he looked carefully at each of his seated friends to gauge if it was some kind of joke; Cameron moved the plastic bag towards him to show the perturbing white chemicals within.
Cameron fashioned an envelope, inserting within the chemicals along with a note detailing what was happening to alert his guard: a young Mountie named Ken, Marcus flagged down the waitress and asked her to deliver the letter to the young man on the fringe of the crowd sitting by himself. When the RCMP officer received Cameron’s note he casually left his table and circled the room, when he returned he shook his head in the negative.
Grace asked the question “What next?
Buck leaned down and quietly said “Need to draw them out, have them make their move. Finish up your drinks and start acting drunk – then we move away from the crowd”
The grown ups nodded in agreement while Cameron held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders in the classic “I don’t know” gesture.
Grace leaned over to say “look tired and get dizzy”.
The four put on a show for a couple minutes, seeing Grace get silly was worth the price of admission, but they as a group made moves to leave together and headed sloppily to the exit, the RCMP officer came close and Marcus directed him to call for back-up as they were certain whoever was setting them up would show themselves outside.
Jaspers main street had people walking towards other Canada Day events which included a fireworks display. Everyone in the group walked out of the pub making a display of being impaired, Marcus and Grace used each other for support, Buck was shaky and bounced off walls, Cameron hadn’t any experience in this game but took on a silly walk and tried to steer Buck down the street, they spoke loudly to make their plan known – getting Buck back to his truck. They hadn’t gone far when a lone figure wearing a gi blocked their path.
Buck stepped forward to protect his companions saying “You want a piece of me?”, the man wagged his finger to indicate not Buck instead pointing at Cameron.
“Again” complained the boy.
Buck sized the man up “If you leave now you won’t get hurt”.
For a reply the gi clad man dropped into a ready posture. Cameron noticed the man carried a pouch tucked into his belt which contained the same powder that had been found in their drinks, (fairs fair) thought the boy as he took some of the drug out of the pouch and put it directly into the mans bloodstream.
Buck rotated his neck with the cracking sound echoing around them, when he stomped his left foot down the concrete cracked, his low grumble sounded like “have at thee."
The man jumped forward closing the space separating them, leaping up he swung his foot in an arc planned to strike Bucks face, Buck raised his hand: faster than someone that big should be able to move, caught the swung foot and held it. The martial artist spun to break free of Bucks grasp to which Buck threw his purchase away resulting in the man flying 10 feet back rotating in the air to land in a crouch facing his opponent. He attacked again delivering a series of kicks intending to overwhelm Buck; the blows flew at him in rapid succession as the man spun to put greater force into each strike, Buck blocked each parry holding his ground. The man wasn’t able to make a solid connection onto Buck considering his having an immense advantage in reach as the man only stood at 5 foot 7 to Bucks 7’1”, Buck hadn’t made any offensive moves so far, but when the man moved in to deliver a fist into his midsection – Buck’s downward strike with an elbow connected with the mans left arm making him immediately retract his now injured appendage, the situation requiring the man to retreat favouring his arm but as he moved away he reached into a fold in his clothes and a throwing disc flew out at Buck. Buck reacted by putting his left arm in-front of the shuriken which imbedded into his watch. Buck dislodged the metal disc and tossed it aside as he held his ground to prevent access to his friends.
Cameron had been held back protectively by Marcus and Grace, when he asked if they should help? Marcus scoffed that Buck won’t forgive them if they interrupted a good scuffle. The man began to move sluggishly his balance starting to be impacted from the dose Cameron had given him, the man again attacked Buck once more leading his volley with kicks to try and find an opening, in the flurry two blows hit but most got either blocked or evaded, Buck quickly grabbed onto an arm when the martial artist had moved in close, moving his free hand up near to Buck’s face he sprayed something: Buck coughed and was visibly effected, a second dose was put directly into his face and the big guy waivered as the knock-out gas was hitting his senses and he struggled to keep on his feet.
Cameron looked at the situation and saw that Buck was about to topple, when the man began to step around the giant to make an onslaught at Cameron: Cameron took all the strength out of the mans legs making them like jello so that the gi clad man sprawled onto the ground, he lay directly under Bucks falling bodies path – fear was in the mans eyes as he saw the large man’s frame coming down onto him, the man’s body acted as a cushion taking all the force of Bucks fall, the sound of crunching was accompanied by groans that escaped from the man who was down for the count, that and the sedative dulling his awareness.
Cameron’s RCMP detail had called in for back-up, he had been a couple steps away watching – waiting for the squad car to arrive, it undoubtedly looked humourous to the officers stepping into the scene: finding an very large man laying on the ground tended to by a tall slim man and a teenager, while another man wearing something akin to pajamas obviously in pain was being looked after by a blonde woman, certainly not the deadly force attack they had been called out to. Cameron’s RCMP guard explained the situation as the ambulance arrived, the martial arts attacker was arrested and escorted to the hospital, Buck was roused sufficiently to get him to his bed since there was no way of carrying him without a forklift, he passed out in his trucks sleeper cab before a goodbye could be said, Cameron repaired the watch that had been damaged in the fight and Grace made certain Buck was covered by a blanket and gave him a goodnight kiss on the cheek, the trio left him to sleep. Quick statements to the RCMP and the three headed back to their cabins after catching the finally of the fireworks display.
July 02, 2007, Jasper National Park
Today was something Cameron had really been anticipating: White Water Rafting on the Athabasca River, they joined up with the tour they’d booked and loaded onto a bus to be taken upstream, Cameron blushed when some of the passengers on the bus recognized them from last nights singing, it was amazing how all aboard the bus easily took up singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat under Marcus’ direction, before anyone realized it the bus was stopping at the drop-off point and everyone geared up in preparation to launch. The River to the best Cameron could visualize was a milky green colour derived from glacial silts as the rafters explained it, it ran cold and fast.
The inflatable rafts crews set about divided up the passengers, with Marcus, Grace and Cameron remaining together, four rafts launched and allowed the current to carry them downstream with only some paddling to adjust course which aligned the raft with the best route through rapids, being splashed with the fresh water took your breath away so the raft captain instructed that it helped to shout when entering rough water as it actually forced you to breath normally, so here they were: shouting, hollering, and enjoying themselves thoroughly; when the rafters showed them to hoot like owls if they fell into the water to keep a person from seizing up from shock - the three singers laughed hard at the enlightenment of having gotten hooted off the stage. The trip down-river stopped for a lunch break and the food was attacked as if a pack of wolves had chanced upon a kill. Returning to the boats the adventure continued and everyone settled into a pattern of paddling or rubbernecking at the vista as it was slowly unveiled with each turn in the river. As they made their way through one big set of rapids the boat folded in the middle and when it sprang back into shape it catapulted Cameron out and into the water – getting splashed was a shock: however, being submerged into the ice cold water was numbing beyond words as it took his breath away, Cameron made a pitiful attempt to hoot between his laughter while positioning himself in the water with his feet pointing into the current as instructed by the rafters, it took only a few minutes for the raft to get close and he was dragging back aboard, between the sun and putting some heat into his clothes he was dry in no time.
The tour ended midafternoon with everyone transported back to the trips starting point. The day was beautiful with only a few clouds moving about, so the three decided that there was enough time to ride the Skytram and hike before the day escaped them.
The tram ride was disconcerting for Cameron, his sight giving him disturbing details like their height above the ground, the thickness of the cable supporting them, the amount of sway in the gondola, he clutched the railing tight with knuckles white from his nervousness, the tram jostled when passing a tower which was enough to make him gulp, so when it arrived at the upper dock he quickly exited as soon as it stopped atop the mountain, it felt so good to have solid ground beneath him. Signs at the platform cautioned about storms and to stay on the trails, the three set off to ascent the mountains peak which would take a couple hours of hiking.
The climb up to the peak was slow with Cameron’s’ legs and lungs burning, but the view on-top was worth the exertion, if didn’t matter that Cameron had been panting to catch his breath: he would have lost it anyway as the world unfolded before them. Mountain ranges and valleys stretched from horizon to horizon, the shadows from clouds tracked across the trees below creating an enticing effect of light and shadow, looking down at the town it appeared so tiny - the cars looked to be smaller than ants and people just specks. Grace directed attention to the clouds forming to the west and moving rapidly towards them, the LPC’s (little puffy clouds) that had been the days’ company had begun to boil and build into a storm as the clouds took on ominous forms and the bottoms blackened.
The trio quickly packed up and started the descent, the burning legs from the climb became rubber as if the joints wanted to work backwards, Cameron was slowing the others down but they didn’t push him to go faster. Rumbles of thunder vibrated the air and flashes of lightning lit the sky over their shoulders. They had neared the platform: its outline becoming larger the closer they approached, however, ahead of them on the trail sat an older couple resting on some large rocks, Grace ran up to them discovering it to be a couple in their late sixties that had been having a picnic: when they heard the approaching storm they had begun packing up, which is when the lady sprained her ankle on the uneven rocks, she wasn’t able to put weight on her leg and their efforts at hobbling together had not been successful.
Just moments after Grace had wrapped the ladies leg in tension bandages the rain started, it was really heavy rain; the kind with huge drops that you felt when each one hit and they left large splats on the rocks, the temperature dropped alarmingly fast accompanied by hail as large as marbles that began to fall mixed in with the rain. Marcus directed everyone to huddle together and take shelter under the couples’ picnic blanket. The storm enveloped them fully, the heavy rain and hail roared as it fell, at this elevation they where right inside the cloud, the electrified air sizzled about them making their hair stand on end and the nearby thunder booms rattled teeth and reverberated through bone. Each blinding flash of lightning was followed instantaneously by an earth shaking boom, a lighting bolt charged the air and hissed loudly as it looked to be going away from them but abruptly changed course and flew directly towards them - striking Grace, her clothes burnt where the bolt had hit and she yelled in pain, Cameron had been holding onto Grace when the lightning struck and it channeled into him, he yelped in surprise from having such an immense discharge come into him and get absorbed by his battery.
Cameron had seen the lightning change course, Grace had unfortunately been between him and it, the realization that he might attract that energy meant he'd be endangering these people if he stayed close to them - it would fry them if they got in the way. Cameron broke free of the hold his friends had on him and left the meager protection they had.
Grace cried out "Cameron, Come back! Your scared of thunderstorms."
"That's why I have to go" called back Cameron as he ran to get some distance from the group.
Grace was moving to follow but Marcus' gentle touch drew their eyes into meeting, Grace remained in the huddle.
The lightning was drawn to Cameron as if he were a grounding rod, he hadn't gotten far before getting hit again with a sustained electrical arc discharged from the sky into him, he stood arms wide as if begging the storm to do its worst, he faced the abundant energy surrounding him and left himself wide open to the elements.
Cameron established a collection area that gathered energy out of the howling wind; resulting in the cloud forming a rotation around him as if the plug had been pulled out of a bathtub as it swirled while being drawn into him, he siphoned off much of the cloudbursts energy; between the violent winds and the lightning it added a nice charge to his battery. Over the course of the storm he had been struck by at least a dozen lightning bolts that had flashed brilliantly for prolonged periods illuminating the cloud bank around the boy with intense light casting an eerie silhouette to anyone watching. The surprise storm lasted a half hour before the cloud began to dissipate as the energy driving it was getting depleted. It was amusing to Cameron who discovered that the immense discharge each lightning bolt carried actually tickled his skin.
Cameron was completely drenched from the rain and began to shiver uncontrollably, he directed his body to warm up which was a negligible draw from off his battery compared to the influx of energy he just took in from the storm. The storm moved on as quickly as it had arrived, the ground was saturated and slick, with caution Cameron climbed over the jumble of uneven rocks to rejoin his group as the others began to emerge from under the blanket, it had at least provided some protection but was now dripping wet and heavy, Cameron noticed that each of them was trembling; having lowered temperatures along with being wet - it sped their heat loss. Grace had shivers and had begun applying hot to her hands and placing them into her armpits to help warm-up, Cameron placed a hand on her shoulder charging up her spark while taking the rain out of her clothes, he had the others sit around a sizeable rock which he touched exciting the molecules so it glowed red emitting heat. Cameron’s gentle touch upon each of the huddled people dried that person and helping them get warm.
The group began moving forward to the Skytram platform, Marcus stooped to take some of the lady’s weight and her husband supporting her other side, Cameron took Marcus’ pack and carried some of the couples’ belongings with Grace taking up the rest. Progress to the platform was slow and when within sight employees hurried out with a stretcher. They entered the Skytram building to find it filled with people waiting for the next ride, the tram had been stopped to wait out the storm. Cameron shuddered at the thought of being caught mid-air in that tram car while being shaken and buffeted violently by a storm. The Skytram’s mountain top building made for a good shelter, Grace found a vending machine and got the couple coffees, handing one to Marcus as well, the cup given to Cameron was hot chocolate which was sweet, smooth, and welcome.
It had taken a few trams to clear out the backlog of passengers, the older couple had been on the first car down, but the three remained on the mountainside glad for a moment to sit. When their turn came the ride down was less stressful as Cameron knew what to expect; but didn’t enjoy the feeling of being suspended in the air. Conversation turned to dinner and when Marcus mentioned the same pub again, he threw his best puppy dog eyes at them; which was pitiful but he got his way regardless.
They arrived at the pub after getting cleaned up, and the manager was thrilled to see them again; seating them down front and center. Cameron had built up a gnawing hunger and ordered two entree’s devouring both, Grace matched his appetite, Marcus sighed at his solitary steak.
A professional band called the Hometown Boys had been booked to perform in Jasper, they could do amazingly good covers of popular new and old time songs – mostly Country and Western which wasn’t up Cameron’s alley but he didn’t complain. The gathered audience was very appreciative giving applause and hooting after each song was performed, the dance floor crowded as couples enjoyed the music. Marcus and Grace joined those taking to the floor to cut a rug when favorites were played. The Hometown Boys had been singing for about an hour when one member took the mic and asked the audience if they would like to hear a guest singer? Being put in the spotlight Marcus was convinced to come up onto the stage and after a brief minute of talking to the band, he seated himself. The band started the rift for ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, and Marcus gave his all into the delivery of the Eagles hit, he was delightful; letting his voice work the music to reach into peoples’ hearts and caressed them, the enraptured throng continued swaying after the music stopped with applause starting slowly but built to a crescendo with hoots and hollers added in.
Marcus joined Grace and Cameron back at the table, a tray of beers getting delivered once seated “I love this place” was his comment while raising his glass to show appreciation, eliciting his companions’ eyes to roll feigning disbelieve. Between gulps Marcus told Cameron the “Boys” wondered if he would like to sing tonight as well? Cameron mused for a time before says ‘yes’, then between songs spoke with the band. Cameron was introduced and walked onstage, the band tuned up and waited for Cameron to move up to the mic. Cameron had fond memories of his father singing even if it wasn’t in tune or note worthy, his father sang from joy of heart and Cameron proceeded to sing the one his dad had sung in the shower the day he’d died. There was a quiver in Cameron voice as he’d remembered his family but his delivery wasn’t sad – instead it reflected joy stemming from good memories of his past life.
Gowan’s: ‘When There’s Time for Love’ had come off the artists’ acoustic album, Cameron’s’ voice had a haunting effect as it reflected his emotions that touched each word, they echoing around the room as the Hometown Boys playing in near imitation to the recording. Ending the song Cameron bowed his head, and when he raised it the audience had shown restraint waiting for his acknowledgement, the room stood as one and applause tore through them, whistles and hoots as accompaniment, Cameron hooted in response which brought out laughter. The “Boys” thanked Cameron and said they would need to include that song into their usual repertoire.
Marcus and Grace both hugged the red faced boy, who had received adulation on his way back to the table – even a couple phone numbers, Grace quickly relieved him of those tucking them into her purse. Another root beer was delivered along with slices of apple pie and cheddar cheese for each of them, Cameron rose and bowed to show his thanks before devouring the dessert.
The days’ excitement had worn the trio out, so they called it an early night, leaving the pub was running a gauntlet of handshakes and congratulations, Cameron’s RCMP guard fell instep as they left the establishment and he commented about the terrific job Cameron had done with that song.
July 03, 2007, Jasper National Park
The sky showed no hint of yesterdays violent weather, it was clear and bright without a cloud to be seen, piling into Marcus’ truck they headed off to the Columbia Icefields; they had decided to hike up and explore the glacier rather than join a coach tour.
The hike to the Glaciers toe was easy as it following the carved valley left by the receding ice, strapping on ice cleats giving them additional traction allowing them to walk on the ice, they followed the paths - not venturing far from the established routes. Cameron’s sight captured the underlying layers giving him a grander view and appreciation of how vast this icefield was, they walked upon the glacier scampering over the streams and through patches of snow.
They stopped to enjoy a simple lunch sitting on an outcropping of rocks, Marcus and Grace applied another layer of sunscreen as the reflected light could create burns in unusual places like under the chin and inside your nose, Cameron was not concerned as he just soaked up the suns rays and felt better for it. The hike was not strenuous and the threesome covered much ground, Cameron being able to provide warning of weak ice and hidden crevices’, around two in the afternoon they started to make their way back, descending toward the location the tour buses frequented.
Coming down into the valley they could watch the special buses outfitted with huge tires; people disembarking and wandering about, then loading up to return to the visitor centre. The bus area had been checked to ensure a safe experience and the tourists told not to venture too far. Marcus, Grace and Cameron needed to walk past the high traffic area to return to their parked truck, but noticed a young man who had broken off from his tour and had begun running over the ice, it was sickening to hear his cry and watch him disappear into the ice as it gave way beneath him. Cameron turned to his friends: Graces hand was outstretched pointing to the last spot the boy was seen, Cameron took the cue and lead them double time detouring around danger spots.
The boy had crossed an ice-bridge; water had eroded underneath forming a crevasse but left a thin ice layer above which must have looked solid but had collapsed when the boy stepped on it. Cameron surveyed the situation, a boy around 14 or 15 was wedged in a narrow gap 25 feet down, he was panicking and getting himself imbedded tighter, the worst of it was he was against an ice shelf: a crack in the ice was ready to release, it would send several tons of ice onto the boy. The bus driver had joined Marcus and Grace, informing them that he had called for rescue help who would be twenty minutes out, the ice underneath them gave a loud crack and shifted down an inch, Cameron explained to them what he knew. The collapse of the ice bridge triggered the ice shelf into dropping, the boy was in its path – if it let go he would be cut in half when it sheared. Grace began to prepare to climb down when Cameron said she wouldn’t fit, if someone was to go down they would have to be small, Grace shook her head when the realization of what that meant sunk in, Cameron was the smallest and would still be that when the rescue team arrived: the boys best chance was Cameron.
Cameron anchored four metal poles into the ice, with each pole forming part of an apex onto which he had fashioned a pulley, a climbing rope had been fed into the pulley which was centered over the hole, Cameron made a harness which was hitched around his waist so that he could be lowered down by it. Grace and the bus driver held the rope as Marcus directed them. Cameron descended into the crevasse face first resulting in blood rushing to his head, he was down a few feet below surface when another crack sounded – to Cameron it was deafening and his sight showed the ice shelf had shifted again, with an arm he motioned that he be held and proceeded to try bonding the slabs of ice to keep them from moving which meant thawing a horizontal shaft then quick freezing the ice / water to try and pin it in place. Moving downward again - he snaked past a curve in the crevasse wall and could now directly see the boy, Cameron’s breath made clouds in the cold air around his face, his hands and feet started to feel the colds bite as well. Cameron tried talking to the boy but he was unable to respond as hypothermia had set into him and he was shivering uncontrollably as his body tried to generate heat, he was only wearing a shirt and jeans so his clothing was giving him little protection.
Cameron was lowered to be able with outstretched fingers touch the boys left arm which was wedged above him, Cameron put energy into him to raise his temperature and the shivering relented somewhat but his lips still trembled and he looked blue. Another foot downward and Cameron could grasp the boy, he was stuck fast as some of the collapsed ice-bridge had bound him in tightly into the narrow gap. Cameron disappeared the ice that held the boy fast so he was able to finally take a deep breath being freed from the restrictive confinement on his chest, the boy wrapped his arms around himself to try and warm up, Cameron slid the loop of rope around the boy and was about to call to bring them up. That’s when the ice shelf groaned and broke off.
Marcus watched the ice shelf as it trembled at first then snapped and groaned as it broke away releasing its tentative attachment to the crevasse wall, his shout of warning muted against the rumble the falling ice made as it crashed down, Grace and the bus driver had been keeping the rope taunt using their bodies as leverage – when the ice fell it severed the rope and they tumbled as the weight was no longer on the rope. When Grace looked down into the crevasse it was blocked from the dropped ice shelf, the drivers slumped shoulders told the story as he sized up the situation.
Cameron had nothing more than a heartbeat before the ice overwhelmed him, his impulse to raise his arms for protection and keep the ice away had an unexpected result: a burst of energy had been released. The ice around them had been pulverized into a fine powder akin to snow, instead of being crushed they were engulfed within an avalanche. Cameron's shock had to wait, the pressure against his chest didn't allow him to breath, he'd been slammed hard against the back wall: that pain was throbbing while the cold dulled everything else, his body just wanted to sleep: a trick hypothermia plays on your mind. Fighting against his senses and the weight binding him fast, Cameron disappeared a pocket around himself - and thought to fill it with air from the 'Warehouse', the ice around him was too dense to let air pass through.
Frantically Cameron checked on the boy he'd come to rescue, his arm and shoulder was visible within the prepaired space, increasing the pockets size to free the boy Cameron noted he was able to breath but had dropped into unconsciousness and his blue hue had deepened. Cameron was still upside down inside the pocket, looking past his legs he could see the large ice sheets above him and people topside who had rushed to the crevasses edge - looking down into the now blocked opening and the sheared rope they had retrieved.
The situation had changed dramatically, the crevasse above was too unstable, it would keep breaking off if he made an opening, and he certainly couldn't lift this kid to carry him. His Dad had taught him to look at every angle when faced with a problem; it's how you evaluate options, Cameron weighted the possibilities: up wouldn't work but maybe straight ahead might. He first formed a solid ice floor to stand on, rotated himself to be standing upright and felt woozy from having being inverted for so long, as his head cleared he checked on his rescuee, he warmed him slightly; afraid that too much heat might cook him.
Cameron began tunneling into the ice: taking ice away in sections having it disappear ahead of them in meter long spans and filling the void with air, once an opening large enough for the two of them to move through had been made Cameron needed to push his ward forward a few feet at a time, then open up more tunnel. Building the ice tunnel with a gradually incline towards the surface was all Cameron could manage to move the limp body. It took the physically challenged boy what felt like forever to push and crawl through the at least 80-foot-long tunnel until an opening broke through into daylight. Cameron pushed the boy ahead of himself out of the tunnels mouth and onto the glaciers surface and gave him one more shot of warmth. Cameron could only rise onto his knees; panting from the exertion and slumped back onto his tired legs, looking toward the people gathered by the crevasse, it looked like more people had joined the original rescuers. He spotted Marcus and Grace, Grace had buried her head into Marcus’ chest, Cameron called out “HEY!” and waved an arm over head, a few turned to see who it was – then the whole group dashed over to the boys.
It turns out the rescued boys name was Timmy ('great!' though Cameron 'my life is turning into an episode of Lassie'). Timmy was wrapped into blankets after being checked by Grace for injuries: he would have bruises and a sore chest but nothing broken. The Park Wardens had sent a rescue helicopter into which Timmy and his mother was loaded, it had room for another passenger and all eyes turned to Cameron, muttering “fine” he climbed in beside Timmy and the whirlybird lifted off. Cameron was again uneasy about being off the ground, but the view was incredible, his nervousness forgotten as the majestic Rocky Mountains yielded a panorama that captured his heart.
The helicopter had brought Cameron to the helipad at the Jasper hospital, Timmy had been taken into emergency to get a thorough examination, he and his mother had then been placed into a recovery room for observation. Cameron sat alone nursing a hot chocolate in the waiting room: it was okay but needed marshmallows, the little bitty ones that would melt into gooey islands and leave you with a sticky moustache … hot chocolate just like Mom made.
Marcus and Grace walked into the hospital to find Cameron sitting holding an empty cup as his head resting on his chest, sitting down on either side they crushed him between them in a hug.
“How you doing kiddo” asked Marcus moving back to get a look at him.
“I was thinking about my family” replied Cameron.
“Ohh honey, I’m so sorry” said Grace squeezing him.
“No. its okay, really. I was just thinking how they would have loved this place, it’s beautiful. They wanted me to have this experience – see all the stuff we’ve done. I can’t thank you enough for helping fulfill their dream - and being there for me” explained Cameron between sniffles “you’re the nicest friends I could have ever met: you’ll make great parents”.
“What?” nearly shouted Grace.
“You didn’t know your expecting? I just thought you didn’t want to say anything” backtracked Cameron.
“But, but, the bullet! Toxins! couldn’t have children?” sputtered Grace.
July 04 2007, Jasper Townsite
The train station that served Jasper Park must have been around for a century, it was picturesque which just gave Marcus more of an excuse to snap photos. The train was in the station boarding passengers, it was the moment that Cameron had been dreading: time to say goodbye. Marcus and Grace had been there to get him through some of the worst: the coma, the assination attempts, a gender reassignment surgery. They had given him the strength to face his injuries, courage to explore powers, laughter when all he could do was cry, and cry when the laughter hurt too much, these were true friends that had stuck through the bad times, they were family and Cameron loved them.
Cameron and Grace stood wrapped in an embrace.
“I don’t have the words! my heart wants to say so much but - my mouth can’t form them” squeaked Cameron.
“I know, it's okay” soothed Grace, holding his face and kissing his forehead.
Closing in for anther hug, Cameron asked “Is it goodbye?”
“Never that hon! only a ‘see you soon’” as she learned down to press foreheads “I’m going to miss you”.
The train whistle sounded to indicate ‘all aboard’, and Cameron stepped up into the railcar hefting a backpack onto his shoulders and waved a farewell, he was certain he could feel heartstrings snap with every turn of the wheel as the train pulled away.
Cameron quietly sat in the high windowed observation car no longer content to be watching the scenery out the window, it had at first enraptured the eye as the train passed through the mountain park following the cut path made by a river, but it had now entered into rolling parklands which held forests for as far as the eye could see: which in Cameron’s case was the curvature of the planet.
He hadn’t moved for a long time - occupied deep in thought; reflecting upon his recent experiences and pondering things learned. Buck had been an enigma, the man filled a room: not because of his size which was certainly considerable, but from his personality; he was warm and caring, so gentle yet unshakable. Buck had said that being big was a blessing and a curse, it meant that he was given freedom to not have to prove himself constantly – but a target to everyone wanting to make a name for themselves. Cameron was trying to understand what he had meant, what being a man entailed.
Cameron was still motionless, his eyes on autopilot just scanning the landscape when his RCMP escort plopped down beside him.
“You alright kid?” asked the young Constable.
“Yeah Ken, I’m okay, just pondering the meaning of life” replied Cameron.
“Wow, I usually just think about girls. Something in particular bothering you?”
“I know I’m on the right track … sorry - bad pun there, It’s just! can I face what’s coming?”
Ken thought for a moment “A wise man said to me once ‘sufficient for each day are its own troubles, don’t be anxious about tomorrows’”.
Cameron mulled that for a minute “So I shouldn’t make plans for tomorrow?”
“No, No. We have to plan ahead! its just that - all we can do is make plans; and no matter how good “THE PLAN” we make is, it typically falls apart after the first couple minutes, it’s a matter of accepting that changes will happen and rolling with them."
“But keep moving forward?” added Cameron.
“Sounds right!” pausing for a second he continued “Wanted to let you know Edmonton’s still two hours away, we will have to disembark and wait for the other train heading east, there’ll be a couple hours in Edmonton. Anything you want to visit?” queried Ken.
“Farmers market?” questioned Cameron.
“I hope the local guys know a place. I’m going to close my eyes for a couple minutes, mind if I stay here?”
Ken rather quickly settled into the slow breathing pattern of sleep, Cameron had nudged him along in that regard. Ken was okay, a newly minted officer just out of training at Regina and been assigned as Cameron’s personal guard … from his comments Ken had won a contest and his prize was Cameron detail.
Cameron detail in Edmonton consisted of three RCMP officers, Ken and two local Mounties, while Ken was in casual clothes the two local guys had gone all out, not the day to day outfit but full dress red serge including hats. Walking around the farmers market had been a blast with people wanting photographs taken with the iconic Mountie image, the smiles the Mounties wore spoke of their pride.
Cameron had been stall hopping looking for fresh fruit and vegetables and anything else of interest to load up his stores, something he had been doing after deciphering a certain dream. In his wanderings he found some excellent Ukrainian sausage, just before having to leave he bought Kettle corn – the bag was about as big as he was. The local officers puzzled at the boy: they knew he had purchased a lot but only carried the popcorn when they loaded up to return to the train station.
Everyone in the police cruiser partook of the Kettle corn on the way back, the sweet/salty smell was irresistible, but they hardly dented the full bag of the stuff. Cameron and Ken received quizzical glances as they got escorted onto the train platform by the officers in regalia – it didn’t stop photo hounds from wanting a special holiday picture with the Mounties; which made Ken say next stop he was going to the nines.
Before boarding a Conductor wanted to see Cameron’s pass and asked his destination: being Ottawa, the Conductor informed them that their baggage had already been loaded and that the railway had made special arrangements for them.
While the popcorn had been tasty they hadn’t eaten yet; so once aboard they went to the dining car. The train pulled away from the station starting its eastbound journey while they sat and ate, it was well along into the journey before Cameron decided to head towards his accommodation as he wanted to relax, he had booked a sleeping berth as the trip would take several days, the Conductor had said his car was at the end of the train but to ask for assistance.
Making his way down the rows of seats that lined each passenger car something clicked and Cameron stopped.
Lynn had been a terror hurrying her parents as they gathered their luggage together to board the train, they found a set of facing seats and stored their gear, Lynn was so tightly wound she looked like she would go off any second.
“Calm down dear” soothed her mother.
“I can’t believe this is happening! everything getting us to here. It’s actually coming true!” said the girl nearly bursting.
“Give her some slack Terry, you get the same way sometimes” quipped Lynn’s father.
“I do not!” retorted Terry giving her husband Doug ‘the look’.
“Even seen you worse” remarked Doug winning a huff and playful swat on the arm from his wife.
“I don’t see him!” whined the girl looking about the compartment.
“Patience dear, patience” intoned her mother as the train lurched beginning its forward momentum, as the family settled in to get comfortable.
The girl reacted to any sound or movement like a cat poised to pounce, so when a young man walked down the aisle she watched him intently, he had entered the cabin and made a careful scan of the occupants as if assessing threats, he then made his way along the passage between seats but it wasn’t until he had moved beyond them that Lynn spotted the youth walking a step or two behind as the first man walked past. Lynn would have bolted if her father hadn’t reached across to block her darting up, noting her mothers gesture to sit and wait Lynn sank back into her seat.
Cameron stood for a second, his head making an odd twitch. He turned and backtracked to face the seated family.
“Sorry for how crazy this is going to sound, but I think I’m supposed to meet you” said Cameron as both a statement and a question.
“Have a seat” directed the man pointing to the open chair in-front of him, unfazed from Cameron’s comment “My name is Doug, my wife Terry, and our daughter Lynn."
“Cameron … Burke” responded the mystified youth.
“Cameron, can you let me see your eyes” asked Terry.
With a sigh, Cameron tipped down his visor, the brilliant telltale golden glow shining above the lowered lens.
“No doubt about it!” remarked Terry letting Cameron reposition his eyewear.
“Sorry, had you been expecting me?” begged Cameron.
“I think we should actually introduce ourselves” said Doug extending his hand “I’m Doug Franklin, I’m a mutant” shaking Cameron’s hand.
That piece of information confirmed what Cameron had spotted earlier: energy signatures, but not anything he had seen before. It turned out that Doug was a shape shifter which explained the rippling flow of energy about him, Terry was different again: she was a Were, specifically a werecat or to be precise a werepanther, which took some explaining as Cameron didn’t know anything about them, she further elaborated that she was a mutant Were – she had a minor form of precognition which also needed some explaining. Lynn was indeed their offspring: she was a multiform Were with precognition.
Cameron simply stated that he was an unknown as tests had been inconclusive, which was an unsatisfactory explanation, so he asked if they were thirsty to which he manifested four tall glasses of water with glacial ice cubes and queried “Ideas?”, Doug put forward ‘manifestor’ but Cameron detailed that; no, he just brought the glasses, water, and ice out of storage. He could manipulate matter but had not made anything, but given who his companions were/Were ... whatever, Cameron told them about his dreams, he knew to speak to them because it had been in his dream: it then dawned on him - in his dream he had normal sight, looking over at Lynn her gaze bore into him creating a pull like a vacuum, in his dream her eyes had been mesmerizing from being such a beautiful green, here – now: it was like trying to swim against a rivers current just like when Cameron was dumped out of the whitewater raft.
“Mr. Franklin, what do you do for work?” Cameron asked trying to not be rude by just staring at their daughter.
“I’m a wind-farmer, I have windmills that generate electricity on my ranch in Southern Alberta, I used to raise cattle and still have a few head, but electrical generation has become the big thing” stated Doug with a glint of pride.
“Did you name your farm?” asked Cameron between transfixing looks at Lynn.
Terry choked out a groan of “oh no!”
“I certainly did, named it ‘Passing Wind’, cause it’s always blowing” added Doug.
“Daddy can’t wait to get back to ‘Passing Wind’” was Lynn’s insightful comment.
With Doug quickly sliding in “I never stopped!”
Terry had a pained expression and let out a sigh, Lynn had a shocked look but fell into laughter which sounded like tinkling chimes, Cameron laughed at the joke as Doug had to guffaw at his own wit.
Cameron went silent for a brief moment, so Lynn asked “Is something wrong?”
“Deja-vu” was Cameron’s embarrassed response.
“Unnerving isn’t it?” Lynn quizzed sympathetically.
“Is that why you’re here? Why you weren’t surprised by what I said?” questioned Cameron hoping for answers.
“Well …” hesitated Lynn.
“We both had our own revelations about being here and meeting you” remarked Terry “it’s the first time we’ve both seen the same thing: but Lynn had the date, time, and place to catch the train. In a way it’s like we know you …”
“Do you know why?” Cameron put forward.
“Why glimpses of the future? no – not really, for me its like standing at a crossroad and knowing to go that way, Lynn gets stronger impressions” was Terry’s almost apologetic reply.
“I see visions, I get a few moments in time but it’s out of place … maybe disjointed is a better way to describe them” explained Lynn “Sometimes it’s fixed and can’t be changed - other times fluid and the outcome is dependant upon what I do. Most times I can find something to link where or when I am seeing: I saw the printing on our train tickets so knew where we had to be”.
“My dreams are like watching a recording of a slice of your life, I take them to be like passing a sign on the road saying your heading in the right direction: just now; talking about your ranch, I had seen that before” informed Cameron.
“And you let the rest of us suffer through it” accused Terry.
The group had to laugh, fueled by Doug’s moaned “you wound me Love!."
The four sat and talked for hours, laughing and munching on Cameron’s Kettle corn. Ken approached them and indicated that they should find their rooms before dinner. Cameron excused himself and left the Franklins.
Once Cameron and Ken had left, Terry turned to her daughter “what do you think?”
“He’s nice, a little shorter than I thought he’d be” remarked Lynn.
“He’s still young dear” she purred.
The train Conductor had been impatiently waiting for the VIP’s to claim their rooms, it wasn’t often that the railroad went all out so the kid must be important. When Ken and Cameron found the man, he walked them down through the sleeper cars and stopped at the door to the last train car, the Conductor fumbled with keys and unlocked the door ushering them in. The whole car was a single private coach divided into bedrooms, dining area, and viewing seats, it was laid out to accommodate 8. When Cameron turned inquisitively to Ken he shrugged his shoulders and nodded acceptably. When Cameron asked the Conductor if he could invite quests the man informed him the entire car was at his disposal.
Cameron and Ken made their way back to the Franklins, asking if they would be interested in seeing what the railroad had assigned the two as rooms, the Franklins said ‘sure’ but paused worried about leaving their luggage alone, Ken and Cameron said they had enough room to stow it for them for the duration so helped carry their bags. Doug’s whistle when stepping into the train car best expressed the impression given by the luxury ride. Cameron offered for them to share the railroads hospitality, and although Terry had to be won over she acquiesced after a little prodding from Lynn and Doug. Ken Tallman was officially introduced - then it was a scramble to claim bedrooms and putting bags away.
Once everyone was seated into the comfy reclining chairs that granted an unimpeded view, Terry nearly pounced on Cameron “Spill” she asked with a sweeping motion to the private railcar.
Cameron sheepishly proceeded to explain the rail pass he had been given by the railroad as thanks for his part in cleaning up the derailment disaster, which necessitated describing what all he had done, which also lead into his helping Tim, Rachelle and Charlotte. Mentioning the two girls had caused Lynn to tense up, but as he described how they had needed his help to heal from their injuries and then getting put into protective custody due to a hateful father she relaxed.
Doug nodded in understanding, it was fairly common knowledge that Calgary was mutant un-friendly, they themselves had been purposely avoiding it for years. Cameron noticed the man wore two watches and asked about it.
Doug took off the watch on his right wrist and looked admiringly at it “This had been my grandfathers, he bequeathed it to me as a family heirloom. it still tells time perfectly."
Lynn scoffed “Only twice a day, the hands haven’t moved since before I was born."
“Hey” complained Doug, sour for having his thunder being stolen.
“May I see it?” asked Cameron reaching out for the watch.
“Don’t break it” Doug warned; smiling at the humour of it.
“I’ll be careful; anyone know what time it is?”
“It’s 7:30 pm on the button, guess we should think about dinner” replied Doug after looking at his other watch.
“The Conductor said dinner would arrive at 8:00” to his guests’ surprise, “it’s a nice watch Mr. Franklin, fine workmanship” remarked Cameron handing it back.
“Please, call me Doug, every time I hear Mr. Franklin I keep looking for my Pop” clasping the watch back to his wrist before noticing “It’s working!”
Cameron smirked “Just showing off, sorry."
“Let me see hon, amazing … the jeweller said it couldn’t be repaired” admired Terry “even the face looks new” turning to Ken she asked “so tell me, is this why he needs a guard?”
“No Ma’am, Cameron here just needs protecting, there have been five assassination attempts that the force knows of” replied Ken who had tried to give them distance but had been drawn into the conversation.
All eyes were cast upon Cameron, waiting for the boy to crack under the scrutiny, it was Lynn who demanded “Spill” that broke Cameron’s willpower and he told his story, from the accident and coma, to awakening in hospital, Grace and Marcus, Mike, Karen, the assassins, the MCO, and the trial.
Terry placed her hand on Cameron’s lap “Thank you, dear. You’ve done well.” Looking again at Ken “only one of you?”
“Just while on the train Ma’am, more on the ground” was all Ken would say.
They were called to the dining area, it had been set for the five of them, the wait staff brought in silver trays and unveiled baked salmon, rice with mushrooms, seasoned fresh asparagus, and leafy salad. The smell was intoxicating speaking of which the adults were served wine with Lynn and Cameron getting sparkling apple juice.
The food was delightful, the girls absolutely gushing over the salmon, having double servings … when the waiter brought in another salmon they looked ashamed but it didn’t stop them from dividing up the second one between them.
“So?” Cameron asked, pausing to let the drama build “Werecats?”
A wide eyed moment was shared between Mother and Daughter, before they started to giggle, then the whole table broke into laughter, their secret revealed and all tension released.
Between dainty mouthfuls, being Were was explained, and since both were Werecats they Loved fish, that’s loved with a capital L to quote Terry. That topic continued through dessert which was a tasty fruit flan with cream. As Cameron watched the two women he began to discern small feline traits in their graceful movements and how they would track anything moving in the room with their eyes.
Returning again to the plush seating area, allowing the table to be cleared and the waiters to leave, the group settled in to enjoy the company as the evening cast long shadows and the sky took on splendid colours into the extended sunset of summer. Ken couldn’t help but ask about Were transformation as it was too interesting to leave unasked. Only after receiving Ken’s solemn oath did Terry move into her panther form, she was a pure black cat with shiny coat and sinuous muscles, even just laying on the couch with her long slender tail flicking about she looked dangerous, Lynn rose from her chair and in that simple smooth - elegant motion she shifted into her cat, it too was a black panther almost a twin in size however having a patch of pure white hair on top of her head between her ears and then the blazing green eyes, Cameron checked her mother she too had green eyes but not the same burning effect. Lynn circled around Ken and Cameron her taunt muscles a display of grace and poise which dancers could only fantasize of. Rounding behind the chairs Lynn surprised Ken by jumping up onto his chairs arm the size of a housecat, still all black except for the same patch, she jumped across Ken onto Cameron’s chair giving him a headbutt then slowly trailing her tail under his chin, the soft fur tickling him, she then jumped over to her own chair and in mid leap returned to human form and resumed sitting with her legs crossed and a bemused smile.
Cameron hadn’t noticed when Terry had returned to human form, his attention too focused upon the attractive girl. Ken was gasping at trying to absorb what he had just witnessed, Terry reached over and patted his knee “Thank you young man, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s almost said to me” her mischievous smile sending the group into laughter.
Lynn piped in “Your turn Daddy!"
“Okay, okay, give me a second” retorted Doug stepping back to his bedroom, after some rustling: out lolloped a large dog, as it neared them it morphed into a big cat like a mountain lion or cougar, again it morphed now it was an elephant but a fraction of a normal sized one, then a horse that again was correct in every detail except for the size, next a large chimpanzee moved up beside Terry and planted a big wet kiss on her, he proceeded to walk down the hallway with arms overhead making sounds reminiscent of laughter. Moments later Doug returned just as Terry was finishing trying to wipe up the mess off her face with a napkin she had retrieved, Doug wore a huge smile which only widened when Terry cut into him with “I love you dearly hon, but the sloppy kisses have to go” The chuckles that elicited required them to be hidden behind hands.
Doug managed to explain that he could take on any animal shape he had studied, but it would only be appropriate to his own weight, that’s why the elephant and horse were small.
Cameron asked how a shapeshifter and werecat met?
Doug settled into his highback chair with a snifter of brandy, and looked intently at Cameron “You’re heading to Whateley, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I start in the fall” responded Cameron.
Ken looked inquisitively “Whateley?”
“Private school in the States” answered Doug “It’s where I met Terry."
Cameron was shocked “You both went to Whateley?”
“Not exactly” Terry interjected “He was a student, I lived nearby."
Doug started his trip down memory lane “I had been practising with my ability, in class I’d learned all I could about big cats but there’s only so much books and films can teach you, I had made myself into a cat, a puma right dear?”
“Mountain lion hon."
“Anyways, I left campus to stretch my legs, I was having a grand time running about through the forest learning to move like a cat."
“Cats don’t crash through the forest like pregnant yak’s dear."
“Of course Love, like I was saying, I was minding my own business when this panther attacks me out of the blue."
“You had invaded our lands, of course I was going to defend it."
“Naturally Lovie. We fought tooth and nail ... literally, I got in my licks but she beat me eventually."
“He took off scared as a rabbit” Terry added as a sidebar “You ran headlong into a tree and knocked yourself out-cold Honey."
“What can I say: At least I left a lasting impression."
“You certainly did, that poor tree still has an imprint of your hard head."
“True, true, but you have to admit it was a clever ploy."
“What ploy? I had to drag your backside all the way to our village."
“But I found out where you lived."
“That … that’s true."
“We started meeting in the woods, and well … how could a hot blooded young man resist such beauty."
“That’s sweet hon, all I can say is: I’m a sucker for punishment."
Lynn was finally able to cut in to add “you realize I have to live with this?”
The shared laughter from seeing a families’ dynamics at play was endearing as the love between them was sincere and heartfelt, Cameron was warmed to be around a family again, a single sniffle the only sign of his twinged memory.
Darkness had descended, only the faintest glow remained of the day, everyone bade goodnight, sought their rooms and the beckoning pillows. Cameron found that the bed was comfortable enough and settled in - but despite himself just laid there reflecting upon how the day had unfurled: nothing like he’d planned but most agreeable nonetheless, he heard snores emitting from other rooms when his door opened and quickly closed, turning his head and opening his eyes, caught in the beams was a tiny kitten with tufted downy hair, it gave a soft ‘merrow’ then struggled to get onto the bed - once up it climbed atop Cameron’s blanket, kneaded a spot on his chest, curled up into a little fluffball and promptly fell asleep, the gentle rumble of her motor was exactly what Cameron needed to help him get to sleep.
July 05 2007, Saskatchewan
When Cameron awoke, Lynn was gone. He had had one of the most restful sleeps in recent memory, harkening back to when her little brother would climb into his bed when he couldn’t sleep … her, him, his. Cameron’s reaction was nauseating, it wasn’t that he’d forgotten! but gender just hadn’t been on her /his mind, arghh it was frustrating. It took awhile for Cameron to compose himself before joining everyone else.
The waiters had brought in a delicious selection of breads and jams for breakfast, along with an assortment of fruits. Ken asked if Cameron liked Rye bread, which was an affirmative, “good” he said” I know a great bakery in Winnipeg, we’ll have a couple hours to kill there”.
Lynn had claimed one of the comfy viewing chairs and was looking out at the near endless grain fields passing bye.
“Is this what it looks like where you live?” asked Cameron taking the seat beside her.
“Sorta, there’s more hills, and the mountains are just West of us” she replied “it’s funny, I see the wide open fields and I just feel like running, but it’s not a cats ‘natural’ habitat."
“Are you a creature of habit?” postulated Cameron.
“No! well yes … maybe” huffed the delightful girl, even frustrated she drew Cameron in “I have cat tendencies but I control them, they’re just part of who and what I am."
“So, sleeping on me last night was?” queued Cameron.
“Don’t tell my parents about that” she shushed him getting agitated “I don’t do well with strange beds … and you looked like you needed help too."
“I won’t say a word … except Thank You” said Cameron softly to avoid being overheard. Looking back, he saw that the ‘grown-ups’ had begun playing cards and chatting. “I wanted to talk to you – but don’t quite know how to say it."
“Why Cameron Burke! Are you hitting on me?” toyed Lynn taking on a southern accent and using her hand as a fan.
“It’s not that, I just wanted to explain …” stammered Cameron.
“No! too bad, you really should you know, If I’d met a girl that looked like me I would have hit on her” sulked Lynn.
“Who – Wah – Huh?” not the most intelligent of comebacks but being blindsided has that effect.
“Until a year ago I went by Larry” reaching over she extended her hand “nice to met you Cameron."
Taking her hand and giving it shake “Three months for me” inserted Cameron.
“I know” added Lynn ducking down into the chair trying to hide.
“Oh, come on!” sputtered Cameron.
“You know, your really kinda cute when you can’t talk” tossed out Lynn.
“Stop that … I’m just full-blown gonzo confused” retorted Cameron.
“Can’t imagine why?” smiled the girl.
“Okay, first off: how did you know?” asked Cameron with his hand holding his head over his eyes trying to abate a headache.
“Well, in a vision I was in the room when your friends had to discuss getting you the gender surgery, you have really great friends you know, they truly do love you” Lynn then added “Seeing that tore me up something bad - it took Mom a long time to help me through that one."
“Not exactly a walk in the park for me either."
“Yah, sorry about that, I was rooting for you the whole time” comforted Lynn.
“Thanks, now what about you, how did you? questioned Cameron gesturing up and down at Lynn.
“Become the girl of my dreams?” teased Lynn “I grew up a Were and could take on a cat-form since really little: I would just be a kitten of course, but after I had turned fifteen – I had been out roughhousing with my brother, you know: practising to fight as cats. I had a really hard time coming out of my cat form and passed out, next thing I knew I was in bed and human: looking like this” sweeping her hand down her body “My parents said I had some kind of burnout. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to look in the mirror and see a pretty girl looking back at you?”
“Nope, can’t imagine it” taunted Cameron.
"Why… you!” burst Lynn trying to hit him as he ducked and covered.
“Hey you two, keep it civil over there” cautioned Doug calling over to them: then returned to his card game.
“So you have a brother? Older / younger?”
“Alan, he’s older, be 19 now; he didn’t take my change well, I think he needed to get away from me and headed off to join some fight with other Weres, we haven’t heard from him for a long time now. I sure hope he’s okay.
The morning had flown by with conversation, joking, and games. Lunch was trays of sandwiches and sweets, Cameron quietly asked the waiter if it was possible to have fish for dinner again tonight: they didn’t have any available, so Cameron asked that if he could find some would the chef be able to prepare it. The train pulled into Winnipeg’s station and true to his word Ken came out of his bedroom in red serge, Terry commented how dashing he looked which made his cheeks match his jacket, somehow Ken had arranged an RCMP van so the Franklins could join them, their first stop was Ken’s secret bakery which they bought out, then the group collected more goods at a Farmers Market, The Mounties became an attraction and Ken got his moment of glory, Lynn asked why Cameron needed all the food his answer simply was that its from a dream, “nuff said” was her acceptance, then dragged him to a stall with fresh fish.
Everyone returned to the van as planned, with Lynn and Cameron carrying bags of hot mini-donuts which didn’t stand a chance of making it back to the train. Cameron found an internet connection and asked to get a group photo – his escort obliged and he managed to send an email to Grace and Marcus with a brief note describing how the trip was going.
Marcus was busy working at his home computer when he spotted Cameron’s email, opening it he called Grace over, they read it together and then brought up Cameron’s photo.
Grace flushed when she saw a picture of a stunning green eyed raven haired girl standing way too close to Cameron, “I need names, addresses, phone numbers” she shouted “when’s the next flight out?”
“Now hon, don’t get excited in your condition” soothed Marcus.
“Don’t condition me! Keep up that attitude and you’ll be sorry for the condition you find yourself in Bub” came the near frenzied Grace’s response.
“Dear, look! their traveling with her parents, and the RCMP guard, he’ll be fine!” reaching out Marcus grabbed onto Grace holding her tight.
Reason began to break through, after blowing her nose and dabbing a tear, she looked up into her husbands’ eyes “Promise?”
“Yes, I promise” said Marcus as he tenderly kissed his wife.
“I’m holding you to that” cooed Grace resting her head against her husband’s chest.
The train left Winnipeg on schedule as the Eastward trek continued. Later, as the happy travelers sat to dinner, Cameron had difficulty holding a straight face when the waiters presented the fresh rainbow trout grilled to perfection, Terry’s eyes took on a feral look “My favorite, how did you know?” she asked. “Cat’s got my tongue” claimed Cameron who had to evade the balled up napkin thrown at him by Lynn upset at either the bad pun or being ratted out.
The meal had been superb, and everyone lounged about finding a spot to get comfortable and relax. Cameron and Lynn started playing a game of what else ‘Go Fish’.
“This morning, I never got to ask my question” spoke Cameron in hushed tones.
Reciprocating Lynn said “That’s right, you never did ask me on a date."
“I don’t think that means what you think it means."
“What: incurable, uncontrollable, delinquent."
“More like: perfect, faultless, pristine!"
“That would be ‘impeccable’”.
“Why: Thank You” coyly commented Lynn.
“For What!” remarked an exasperated Cameron.
“The compliment silly, a girl likes to be complimented once in a while you know, shouldn’t make her fish so hard to get one either. Your turn by the way."
“So all that was about getting a compliment!”
“Naturally, we are playing ‘Go Fish’ after all."
“You sure play by different rules than I do."
“Uh-huh, so what’s this big question of yours?”
“Honestly, I think you just answered it."
“Fine… What have you found different between being a boy and girl?”
“I guess it is something we should compare notes on” thinking for a second, Lynn asked “Did you play sports?”
“Some baseball, and figure skating."
“Well, in ball did you have to compete to get on the team?”
“Nahhh, we had trouble finding enough players."
“Okay, so: for guys, its like looking at life as a competition, you need to make your own place in the world and get accepted on the team, see if you size up to the next guy. If they aren’t a threat then you can usually be friends, it isn’t so much about fighting as it is fitting in and being respected – respect! That’s it: I think guys need to feel respected.”
“And as a girl?”
“I’m still working on that one. For the most part they have been really nice; friendly, sweet. Sometimes they say hurtful stuff which is usually just trying to tear someone down to make themselves look better, kinda like when a guy is jostling to fit in – but it feels different with girls: I don’t know ... emotional maybe. I would say relationships are more important: making and being friends. Does that make any sense?”
“Kinda … yeah. I’ve noticed that girls are more about communicating: sharing thoughts and feelings, life isn’t a constant battle over fitting in but finding commonality with others, but the stories I’ve heard from older girls are completely different once ‘boys’ get added into the equation. So if guys need respect, I’d say girls need to be loved … and I’m not talking about sex.”
“Duh! I figured that” sniped Lynn.
“Mom used to say that ‘a man can build a house, but it takes a woman to make a home’ I don’t think I can just forget all I was growing up to be and become something else."
“Like switching from being left handed to right handed, the brain fights it."
“I simply haven’t been a boy for very long, I don’t know how to be one: how to act – what’s expected of me. It’s why …”
“It’s why I can’t think about dating, I’m so conflicted. Spending time with you is terrific – but in my heart I’m just not ready.”
“I get it. Kinda like with Mom teaching me to cook – say when making a cake: you get all the ingredients together and put it into the oven but if you take it out too soon it’ll flop.”
“Uh huh. Maybe … in a while, I’ll be ready to date."
“Why Cameron Burke! I do believe you just asked me out."
“I suppose I did at that."
“Well then, I look forward to it.” smiled Lynn, fixing Cameron in her gaze over the cards “See: it wasn’t so hard – and you didn’t even need to get knocked out”.
July 06 2007, Ontario
Cameron stirred from his slumber, breakfast having been delivered cueing the end of sleep and the beginning of another day, once again he’d had a nocturnal visitor, Lynn in kitten form had slept curled up on his chest. At first light she had woken and stretched, then with a sandpaper like tongue licked the tip of his nose, Lynn then plopped onto the floor and with her tail held high in an exaggerated sway left the room.
Breakfast was in warming trays loaded with plenty of scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, and hashbrowns. The train would arrive in Thunder Bay early so they needed a hearty meal to carry them through the layover. Ken appeared in casual attire so then when the RCMP escorts also arrived in plain clothes - Cameron quizzed his guard finding out that rumours had surfaced saying the MCO had jacked up their bounty on Cameron. Instead of the usual stops the group hunted clothes and an outdoor outfitter which was also on Cameron’s list. Terry and Lynn both had the killer instinct for bargains and managed to track down the highly elusive perfect sweater, Cameron had been okay with shopping before but now it was: walk in, find his size, pick the colour he liked and pay for it, no trying it on in the change rooms – no debating between four identical outfits with slightly different colouration: Cameron had become such a guy as Lynn put it.
The train rolled out just before noon and lunch was delicious soup and salad. The scenery along Lake Superior was stunning with the shoreline visible between openings in the trees. Doug had noticed a breeze was blowing and wondered if it would be a good area for windmills, Cameron moved to the table and began manifesting miniature models of potential designs for a wind turbine he had been thinking about, Doug’s interest was immediately drawn to Cameron’s ideas and the two went off into guy-land talking shop. Doug mentioned that windmills have a design flaw: they fight gravity so Cameron’s newest design’s would actually use gravity to help rotate the turbine. Cameron made working models to illustrate the principle he used, once Doug had poked and prodded them he then said he wanted to try full scale units back home. Cameron had no objection and prepared blueprints in-order to share the design with him.
Cameron had been quietly occupying one of the chairs ostensibly watching the view out the window, Lynn had taken her house cat size form and was in the chair beside him – having fallen fast asleep in the rays of sunlight streaming through the windows, Cameron was concentrating deeply working on a project in the ‘Warehouse’, so much so he totally missed Terry asking him if he wanted something to drink, however when she came over and rested a hand on his shoulder and asked him again, he looked up with a smile “Let me get us something” and manifested tall glasses of ice cold glacier water.
Cameron moved over to the table to join Terry and Doug, Cameron motioned to Lynn questioningly - with Terry saying “Let her sleep: you have no idea how good a catnap feels” after taking an appreciate sip from her glass Terry looked intently at Cameron “I don’t think you know how important meeting you has been to Lynn."
Cameron paused at the comment “How so?”
Terry told the story: “These last few days we feel like we have our child back, after Lynn changed she became withdrawn and no matter what we tried we couldn’t reach her. When she started getting visions about you she began to open up. I think knowing that someone else experienced a sex change made a huge difference for her”.
“So the change wasn’t easy for her either?”
“Oh heavens No! My poor baby cried and screamed and wouldn’t accept what had happened, tried for weeks to shift back to being a boy, the dejected look when he finally gave up tore us apart inside. All we could do was let her know we loved her as our child – gender didn’t matter” spoke Terry without once raising her head “when she found out about you - what you went through, her own issues got put on the backburner; when she saw your friends talking about your needing surgery she was despondent for a long time since she didn’t know if you’d made it”.
“What happened to snap her out of it?”
“The train trip, when she saw that you would be on it – come hell or high water, we were going to be here”.
“So if she has had such a hard time accepting the new her why’d she pressure me to ‘notice’ her?”
“It’s complicated, I’d say Lynn must have believed the best way she could help you work through becoming male was to show you being a guy has perks; like the attention of a pretty girl”.
“Thank you for letting me know, I appreciate hearing about what you have all had to go through. I had been so worried that my parents wouldn’t understand - its nice to think of them as having shown the same love and patience as you both did for Lynn”.
“That’s sweet, keep talking like that and we’ll have to adopt you”.
Dinner had been amazing with a really tasty wild mushroom soup followed by steak and fresh vegetables, everyone waddled to find a comfy chair to hear Doug recount of his time at Whateley, he had attended on a scholarship and worked on the grounds crew to contribute to the cost of his education.
Overall the day had been relaxing, spent with good friends that filled it with laughter and cheer. No one wished to disembark in the wee hours of the morning when the trained would arrive in Toronto, which put Ken’s mind at ease. Ken continued to read the book he had been quietly immersed in while the others talked and played cards, for Cameron it was like being part of a family again which dulled the loneliness he feared.
Amber was scared, no terrified might begin to capture how she was feeling. She stood at the train station in Toronto waiting for the eastbound heading to Montreal, she was one of the Psychics the MCO had blackmailed into ‘helping’ deal with their problem, if the definition of being blackmailed included having an explosive device implanted near your heart and your child threatened. It had been only a few days ago that she had been concerned when the MCO notified her that they needed her to come in due to an error in her records; understandably she was worried when she entered the MCO office to clear up whatever was wrong on her file, there had been no hints of any ill intent when she arrived, it wasn’t until the tranquilizer hit her that everything fell apart. She had awoken in a room with 6 other psychics, each getting the same implant. Their tormentors wore strange little metal hats that looked like the beanies astronauts wore inside spacesuits, none of the psychics in the room had been able to get a solid reading off anyone wearing one of those hats.
She stood shivering in the night air, stamping her feet to get blood circulating again, the MCO had them watching transportation routes, she had been assigned to watch the train station, she felt the GPS in her coat pocket: it brought back the memory of the one man who fought against the MCO in the room: his death when the bomb blew his chest open had been a shock that still haunted her and provided the motivation to get their compliance.
Cameron woke to find the train not moving, it had pulled into Toronto’s station and was in the middle of offloading passengers and bringing new ones aboard, the activity was light with only a few people moving about as luggage was getting transferred. Lynn was on her perch rolled into a tight fuzzball atop the blankets, Cameron didn’t move so as not to disturb her – but watched the fur rise and fall as she slept, he pondered how odd it was to have someone act so strong outwardly yet be so tender inside: respect and love wasn’t it, Lynn blurred those lines and yet … so did he.
Cameron was mediating upon the conversation he had had with Lynn, and was distracted to the point of not noticing the uninvited guest in his mind.
Amber was finished scanning each of the passengers as they left - just as she had done with those waiting to board, now she walked the length of the train checking for the target they had been recruited to deal with, in the very last car someone stirred from their sleep and the reading Amber collected told about another nearby who fit the profile she was to watch for.
Amber stood in front of a massive wall which rose high above and had no discernable openings, the smooth ivory finish looked like marble, as she drew her hand across the surface with a feathery light touch it was warm which surprised her. She began to walk the perimeter of the wall and on the opposite side found a small locked doorway. Amber’s psychic instructor had said people could employ locks to keep secrets from being discovered and that a skilled psychic would need to be a locksmith to get beyond those barriers – she hadn’t ever expected his teachings to be so literal as now. After many attempts she finally felt the lock yield as the door opened slightly and she slid in.
Typically a mind is organized to match the persons lifestyle and experiences: business men such as who made up Ambers normal clientele would have a lot of clutter in the peripheral with a clear and focused space front and center with crisp lines indicating purpose and drive. Her daughters mind was a relatively small space with bright distractions and abundant colours, what she found here was not what she expected to see at all. Instead of a young random mind – there was a grand foyer to an immaculate manor, the wood paneled walls had a lightness about them while an easy peaceful feel pervaded the space, the room she stood in was circular with entrances leading off into other rooms, notable was the staircase straight ahead that rose up a flight to a landing with a closed door, the stairs continued up to additional landings each having one or two doors.
Moving to the middle of the great hall, Amber could look into each of the rooms: they all had the same clarity and resolution as the central foyer; the windows all looked out upon scenes of tranquil beauty but not one was the same vista as the others. She noted that one room had the appearance of a library; a single large book sat open on a raised platform; around it lay other books on top of the table used as reference texts, while many other books filled the shelves that lined the walls behind. The second room was akin to a sitting room with formal upholstered chairs around a solid looking carved wood table, it had a tea setting at the ready with a bowl of fruit and tray of biscuits on a small side table. The other side of the hall also had two rooms with one looking like a workshop, a centrally located large solid table held many odd items in varying degrees of completion, a cabinet sitting in a corner was filled with drawings while tools of every kind had been placed on shelves or hung neatly off hooks and arrayed on the walls. The last room held little more than portraits on the walls and a few knick-knacks - a single high back wing chair was positioned to allow viewing of the pictures, a youth occupied the seat facing away from Amber in the foyer.
Amber hated what she had to do next, but her life and that of her daughter was in the balance, she slowly – silently drew out a long black shard; it had taken a huge amount of practise at the hands of her teacher to learn how to make a weapon like this, and as yet she had never used her ‘sword’ to harm another, cautiously she moved up behind the unawares youth, with a single thrust Amber drove the sharp edged shard through the chairs back and into the unsuspecting occupant; piercing the young mind.
Cameron had wanted to remain motionless and not disturb Lynn, she looked so peaceful lying there curled up – the tip of her tail flicking occasionally in response to what he hoped was a pleasant dream. A searing agony tore through him, his eyes registered what looked like a black sword coming out from his chest, his body refused to respond and he was held stuck with his hands locked in an moment of shock and fright.
Lynn was shaken awaken by a sudden jarring - something felt off, she stretched with a big yawn escaping before opening her eyelids. She puzzled for a moment at Cameron who was unmoving and had a look of shock written on his face, it was as if he was holding his breath. Stepping forward she licked his nose but her friend was unresponsive. Near to her was his hand caught in a death like pose, the fingers spread and slightly bent, nudging the hand had no effect so she bared her tiny razor sharp teeth and proceeded to bite his little finger as hard as she could. The result was that his body relaxed and slumped releasing a sigh of relief which was Lynn’s reward.
Cameron’s mind snapped back with full attention, something had kick-started him which permitted fighting off the darkness in the sword which had been stuck into him, the sword dissolved with a hiss and the wound shone brightly for a mere second as the flesh was restored. Cameron stood with purpose; as he rounded the chair he was immediately clad in a suit of armor that shone nearly as brightly as his eyes which now blazed from under his helmet, spotting his adversary Cameron withdrew from it’s scabbard his sword – it too cast the brilliant golden light and the flash of the imposing blade caused an “Eeep” to escape from Amber. She ran and entered Cameron’s Library, grabbing books and strew them in her wake, as she rounding the desk she picked up books intent upon throwing them in defense. Cameron was not all that imposing a figure at barely five feet tall and having a slight frame: but Amber understood that being in someone else’s mind meant they held all the cards; if they knew how to play, with a wave of Cameron’s hand all the books returned to their spot on the shelves, (I’ve never seen anyone do that before) worried Amber – getting a sense that she was not facing an inexperience foe.
With unsteady hands Amber worked to draw out another shard; calling upon her life-force to bring it forth, she had only ever tried making the single blade before so she had no idea what making a second one in short order might mean. This shard was much smaller; more the size of a dagger, which she held up to caution the youth. Amber promptly fell over from having extended herself too far and was powerless.
Amber was in a stupor, still somewhat conscious but hadn’t the strength to do much more than know she was alive. She felt the cool liquid being poured down her throat and it helped to revive her, she was in the sitting room firmly secured to a chair with her hands at her sides, sitting across the table was the youth she had skewered not long ago - no longer wearing armor.
“I’ll make this easy on you. Just answer my questions: first, who sent you?” asked the young looking boy staring at her with the bright glowing eyes.
“The MCO are forcing me to attack you” responded Amber.
“What leverage could they possibly have to make someone kill?”
“My daughter, they’re holding my daughter, and - they have a bomb implanted in my chest!"
“If that’s true, why were your weapons darkborne?”
“All psychic weapons I’ve ever heard of are that colour, I didn’t know they could be any different till I saw yours."
“Tell me why I should let you live?”
“I’m the only family my daughter has."
“Then for the sake of your daughter you get to live” Amber felt the binding holding her release, the youth approached and hoisted her out of the chair and carried her forcibly to the exit door, she was unceremoniously heaved out with the door slammed closed behind her; then it vanished from sight leaving no potential entrance through the wall.
Amber withdrew and started to shiver as the cold night air became noticeable again, she looked around at the platform unsure if it had been a minute or a day that she had been gone. In her hand was something strange, opening what had been her fist she found a small metallic cylinder wrapped in a note: ‘There is no longer a bomb to worry about, taking care of your daughter is up to you.’
Cameron opened his eyes and the light brightened the otherwise darkened room, mere millimeters away was a set of astonishing green eyes looking down at him as hot breath washed over his nose, he felt two paws using his upper lip for support, he raised his throbbing left hand above both of them and looked at the reddened digit.
“Thank you” offered Cameron, and gently ran his fingers down the kittens fur from crown to tail. The delicate ‘merrow’ he got in acknowledgement said volumes as Lynn resumed her post atop his chest and settled into a ball of fluff, Cameron couldn’t hold back the laugh when she winked at him.
July 07 2007, Ottawa Ontario
The train pulled into Ottawa in the late morning, they had all enjoyed breakfast together, but this was Cameron’s last stop. He had asked if the railway would allow the Franklins use of the private car for the rest of their trip to Montreal, they graciously agreed as that was the coach’s destination too.
Ken and Cameron had packed their bags and they’d been taken by porters. The group stood on the platform torn by having to part company so soon. Doug shook Cameron’s hand and patted him on the back, saying thanks. Terry gave Cameron a gentle hug and peck on the cheek, saying he’d better stay in touch. Cameron extended his hand to Lynn who dodged past it - instead wrapping her arms around his neck and locking her lips to his, shock – surprise – fear: sure… but after a moment he softened and returned the affectionate display holding her tight.
Parting; Lynn breathily said “I wanted my first kiss to be something special” then pressing in for a tight hug rested her head against his neck.
Doug cleared his throat before saying “Young man, what are your intentions towards my daughter?” for which he received a swat from Terry “but I wanna know!” he whined. When Lynn stepped up beside her parents she also was the recipient of a swat saying “owww” while rubbing the offended arm.
As the pair walked away from the Franklins, Lynn called out “You won’t forget me will you?”
Cameron turned to her and replied “As if that could EVER happen”, continuing to walk Cameron had a smile plastered on his face a jackhammer couldn’t remove.
As the two headed off into the bustling station, Terry hugged her daughter with one arm saying “You marked him, didn’t you?”
“Trust Mom, trust” was Lynn’s comment as she stood tiptoe trying to see him one last time through the crowd.
Ken and Cameron waited outside the train station for the escort RCMP’s cruiser to pull up, turning to Cameron - Ken said “You are undoubtedly the luckiest guy I know, she is one hot little lady."
“Think so?” questioned Cameron as he slid his tongue around checking his gums “I figure she stole my wisdom teeth."
Ken had to work hard to hold back his laugh “Man, I wish someone would steal my wisdom teeth."
Cameron looked at him intently “Really? we could head to a zoo; you might be able to sweet talk a chimpanzee."
Ken looked stunned holding a blank expression for a second then keeled over laughing hard with Cameron joining him, it is as they say ‘easier to laugh than cry’.
End Chapter 2