Doc - Prologue

    [This is the first chapter of a novel I wrote, The Fall of Doc Future, set in a world similar to the present day, except with metahumans.  I consider it Science Fiction or ‘Hard Fantasy’—there are unusual abilities, but I try to treat the consequences seriously and consistently.  The main characters are Doc Future, the smartest man in the world, currently having issues with insomnia;  his adopted daughter Flicker, a speedster and high functioning autistic;  her best friend, Dr. Stella Reinhart, a mind control researcher who does a few other things as well;  and Donner, a metahuman rock musician with an unusual voice.  It’s about 170k words.  I will be publishing a cleaned up ebook version at some point, so watch this site if you are interested.  Follow the previous and next links at the top and bottom of each chapter to read in chronological order.  Enjoy! - WDR]

    Doc Future was hunched over the old microscope in the makeshift lab when he heard the shift of air and slight crunch of debris.  He looked up and saw Flicker standing in the doorway, the full visor and face mask of her costume up, as it always was these days.  He could smell the faint whiff of decay anyway.
    “Donner is dead.”  came the emotionless voice out of her synthesizer.  Flicker’s lungs didn’t work anymore.
    Doc rubbed his gritty eyes.  “How - how did they get him?”  His voice was hoarse with fatigue.
    “Nerve gas during a concert.  Over a hundred others died as well.  They aren’t even trying to reduce collateral damage anymore.  It had been months since I’d even seen him, so I had hoped…”  she said, then shrugged.
    It was so hard to focus, he was so tired…  “Was he the last?”
    “Yes.  Everyone who has ever been close to me is dead now, except for you.”  She was suddenly standing behind the bench, beside him, looking up at the four monitors he had rigged to satellite views.  “It was clever of them to use the virus as an excuse.  No one knew they made it and it was tailored to only hurt me.”
    Doc looked around at the hideout, a former Colombian drug lab buried in the side of a hill.  It wasn’t much, but it was hidden, and it had power and a little equipment.  “Yeah, well, if they hadn’t nuked my Antarctic lab I might have been able to find a cure in time…”
    “You wouldn’t let me prevent them.” came the voice.
    Doc’s shoulders slumped.  “You were right.  I was wrong.  That’s all.”
    She didn’t reply, just kept looking at the monitor displays of the world from orbit.
    “Uh, okay, look.” He gestured at the equipment on the bench.  “There’s no point in trying to beat the virus anymore, and cloning is out, but using your skeleton as anchor and framework, I think I can rig up a minimal-“
    “Flicker.”  he said, desperate now.  “There has got to be something I can do, I won’t let them-“  Tiny alarms were screaming in his head.  They seemed distant, unimportant.
    “No, Doc.  Thank you for trying, for everything, but my body is dead, and my connection to it is starting to fade.  I’ve only been carrying it around as an anchor and for the communication in my costume.  I haven’t got much longer.”
    The alarms were howling now, beating on the walls of his mind.
    “My emotions are gone now, but I know what I would have wanted.  Just hold me for a little while, before-“
    “They don’t deserve to be on the same world as you!”  Doc raged.  “They never have, any of them.  I didn’t see it soon enough to save you, I failed you.  Show them!  Before you go, show-“
    Everything went red.
    It was odd, he seemed to be seeing from a little ways behind and above as he watched his eyes roll back and his head loll as his body fell sideways.  Flicker moved to catch it, and held it as his heart stilled after its last beat.
    Nothing moved for a moment, then there was a burst of static and one of the displays changed to a head and shoulder recording of him.  He knew Flicker’s visor would be playing the same thing.
    Hell, I never deactivated that.  Not much point now.
    “Flicker, if you are seeing this, I am dead.  Probable cause of death is internal suicide override, triggered by primary cognitive block failure.  If for some reason I’m not dead, then whatever is walking around around in my body likely isn’t me, so take precautions.  You’re my heir, and full details will be available through the database, all restrictions on your access are lifted.  There isn’t much I can say other than I love you and have always been proud of you, and I hope-“  Doc tuned out the rest, focusing on Flicker’s form as she knelt over his fallen body, while the recording played to the end.
    She stayed motionless for a while after it ended, then her head rose again to look at the displays.  She remained that way for another long while, then was abruptly gone, debris stirred in her wake.
    Pinpoints of light began to blossom on the orbital views.  Doc cataloged them automatically.
    Rural areas in North America - that would be the nuclear weapon sites, he thought as they spread across the other displays to China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Europe, Israel and elsewhere.
    More lights, starting again in North America.  Military bases.  All of them, it looked like, including the ones in cities.  He watched as they spread across the world, joined by brightening lines of light, she wasn’t slowing down anymore.  Millions must be dead already.
    Capitals now, glowing brighter.  Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, New Delhi, Cairo, Rome, Berlin, Paris, Warsaw, London, and all the rest.  Soon every government on Earth was obliterated.
    There was a pause, and he thought she might stop there.  Then the rest of the big cities started to go.
    'They don't deserve to be on the same world as you.'  New York, Mumbai, Sao Paulo.
    'They never have.'  Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong.
    'Any of them.'  Guangzhou, Calcutta, Los Angeles.
    'Show them.'  Istanbul, Saint Petersburg, Chicago.
    Doc watched as Flicker carried out his last request.
    It wasn’t until she had finished her grid sweep of Europe, leaving the whole continent glowing, and started on Africa, that Doc realized she wasn’t going to stop.  Not until the people were gone.  All of them.  Some other life might survive, but no humans would, she would make sure of that, before she finally let go.  Faithful to the end, and beyond.  He felt a distant horror at his failures, shame at his weakness, but as sight finally went dark, all he could feel for his daughter was love and pride.


    Doc jackknifed forward, then twisted as the bile rose, and vomited into the basin that was always beside him in bed now.  He dry heaved for a while, shaking.  When he was finally done, he rinsed and spat, then looked at the bedside display.  Three minutes REM sleep total this time.  It always seemed longer.  He could probably go a week before he had to try again.
    He checked the defense display - everything was green, as usual, then moved to the sensory test unit.  After running the tests, he relaxed minutely.  He was back in reality.  Probably.
    He picked up the hand comp, and opened up the nightmare section of his secure personal database.  Okay, cross lucid dreaming attempt after secondary cognitive structure building off the list, it hadn’t worked any better than anything else.  Next time would be another control, no amelioration, just to make sure the baseline effects hadn’t changed.  He recorded the data in his custom form, ticking the boxes labeled ‘Human extinction’, ‘Block failure’, and ‘Flicker’ under eschatology.
    Doc finally finished and set the hand comp down again.  He shook his head to clear it, then got up, a little unsteadily, and stumbled toward the shower.  It could have been worse, he reflected, as the water washed away his sour sweat.  At least it hadn’t been one of the bad ones.

Next:  Phone Tag