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CALHOUN
by Matt 'Badger' Rossi


  Denise Solosbee was just relaxing on the couch when the doorbell rang. She didn't especially want to answer it. Bo was napping in his room, it was getting dark and she wanted to have some time to herself.
  But it might be mom and dad, or even Chip. Ever since the aliens left, they'd been coming by, pressuring her to forgive her other brother for his outburst when Denise was being interviewed about Pat by that Rutledge man. She blew an errant lock of hair out of her face and decided to see who it was after the doorbell rang again.
  "I'll be right there."
  Tired, weary from that place down inside that holds onto hope well beyond any reason, she walked to the door and opened it.
  "Mrs. Patrick Solosbee?" The man speaking was a slight man... at least three inches shorter than Chip or Brian... with an unruly shock of brown hair and a boyish face marked only by lines around the eyes that made his age hard to fix. He could be sixteen or in his thirties. But his eyes... they were almost hypnotic, even though they were merely an amber brown that wasn't that remarkable. She felt something lurking in those eyes, waiting to jump out and consume her. Unaware, she crossed her arms over her chest.
  "Yes. Can I help you?"
  "My name is Danny Anderson. I have some bad news for you, and I'd feel more comfortable telling you if we were both sitting down. Can I come in?"
  Anderson... his name was bothering her. Why did she know it? It wasn't until she remembered the special she'd watched on the Eye of Justice... the one they'd interviewed her for... that she remembered: The Jamaican man saying "Danny Anderson started the Colony, a long time before..." He smiled as she put the pieces together. It looked almost as tired as she felt.
  "Yes, I'm *that* Danny Anderson. Can I come in? I've got several other stops to make..."
  "Yes, come in." She moved, and he stepped into the room, and Bo came tottering around the corner, apparently awakened by the noise or just the presence of a stranger. "Oh, I'm sorry, Bo, I didn't mean to wake you up."
  As she picked up her son, Danny smiled gently.
  "My daughter's around that age. She'll be three this month. Gets into trouble constantly."
  Denise looked at him again, tried to picture what kind of woman would marry someone who could reach into her mind at will.
  "Would you like something to drink?"
  "Sure."
  "Is Coke alright? This is Georgia and all..."
  "Denise," Danny's smile finally managed to get into his eyes for a second. "Believe me when I say that a Coke would be absolutely fine. Maybe two or three."
  They ended up sitting in the kitchen, Bo half-sleeping on her lap, Danny drinking his third Coke from a can with condensation beading up on the surface.
  "Uhm, Mr. Anderson..."
  "Danny."
  "Danny, you said you have bad news for me?"
  "Yes." He closed his eyes. "I'm afraid I have some of the worst news. Your husband Patrick was one of the Dynamax Experimental Victims. He died February 7th, 1995. His body, and that of several others, was inside Dynamax Detroit when it... exploded."
  Denise felt black horror threaten her: she nearly dropped Bo. Then, suddenly, the emotion faded, dulling until it was a cold memory only. She looked at Danny.
  "Are you doing that?"
  "Yes. You'll be able to feel it later, but you were going to drop your son. And I know you want to ask me some questions."
  She looked at him, this gaunt young-old man who'd just walked into her home and cut the hope out of her. Those eyes, that shade of light brown that tends to reflect light rather than absorb it, held behind them everything there was to know about her husband's death.
  "How do you know this?"
  "I recently met two people in San Francisco who had a disk containing a complete list of all the victims, taken from a computer in Dynamax Columbus. I stole that disk, since I knew it wouldn't be useable as evidence after the invasion, since..."
  "They were all Pardoned except for the actual surgeons, and most of them are dead." Denise couldn't believe the cold statement she'd just made. "Could you please let me feel again?"
  "Yes." She put Bo down, and suddenly it all came rushing back, the sorrow, grief, relief, revulsion at that, anger at the revulsion... she cried quietly for several minutes, unable to stop, not even wanting to. Danny waited.
  Finally she managed to stop, and looked back at him with wet lines on her face, not even wiping at them.
  "Was he... was he an Omega?"
  "Yes." She almost felt happy for him. Even if had killed him, it was always his dream. It was why he left her... a suspicion came into her head, a way to salvage even that part of her relationship with him, and to prove Brian wrong once and for all.
  "Was he... did they kidnap him, the way they did others?"
  "Do you really want to know?"
  "Yes... I really do."
  "No. He actually walked up to Dynamax Detroit in January of 95 and volunteered for COED testing. He'd apparently been living as a transient until then, going from job to job, since about May of 94." Danny knew that wasn't what she wanted to hear, but he couldn't bring himself to lie to her. "His Omega power apparently consisted of generating a shell of psi-static, similar to a psi-shield but on a non-interference level."
  "I don't understand."
  "Your husband had the Omega ability to trigger COED's and other Omega detection abilities, even at range." Danny didn't tell her that when he first downloaded this disk and read the files, he'd laughed at that. "Basically, in the files he was listed as a BH-O, meaning an Omega with basically human abilities. No superhuman ones."
  She looked at him, her eyes wide and unbelieving, for several seconds.
  "You mean... he got himself killed by insisting he was this great and superior Omega, when the only thing he could do was make gizmos that detected Omegas... detect him? That's it?"
  "Yes. That's basically it." Danny looked at Bo, who was tottering around on the floor. Unlike his father, he read clean to Danny's aura sense, absolutely mundane. Of course, that didn't mean he wouldn't trigger later. "But useless power or not, he was an Omega, and he did pass the possibility of being an Omega on to your son."
  "Bo's not... does Bo have that Omega detector thing?"
  "No. His aura is normal."
  "How do you... oh. I forgot."
  "Patrick probably triggered sometime after Bo was born, when his fantasies of being an Omega and the stress of being a father dovetailed. Stress, either mental or physical, is one of the leading causes of triggering." Danny looked at Denise. "The stain on your neurological system when the trigger pulls is hard to explain... it feels like a forest fire inside your brain to some people. My brother went into a coma for nearly a month. It's different with everybody. If your husband became flaky, or cruel, that might have been why."
  "Pat was always flaky." Denise very quietly admitted. "I don't think we can blame that on his Omega."
  They sat there quietly for a few moments.
  "Thank you for telling me."
  "I'm sorry it happened." He stood up, offered her his hand. After a moment's hesitation, she shook it, and walked him to the door.
  As she opened it, he stopped and took out two cards.
  "The first one is the private line to Overtech. A friend of mine owns it. The other is Omega House, up in Maryland. If Bo triggers, which is a big if, call Omega House and ask to speak with Anne. Tell her Danny told you to. And if anything happens that seems bigger than the law, you can call Overtech and ask for Jimmy. Tell him what it is, and tell him to get in touch with me."
  "I... thank you. I hope I never need to use them."
  "Me too." He smiled again, and again it barely managed to reach his eyes, and then he stepped out the door and was gone. She closed it behind him.
  For a few minutes she stood there. Then she sat down on the couch, and began to cry again. Bo came up and began trying to see what was wrong, and she picked him up and rocked back and forth, trying to calm down.
  She looked at the phone.
  Almost despite herself, she picked it up and hit the buttons with one finger while holding Bo with the other arm.
  "Brian. Yeah, it's me. I'm sorry too. I just... I just found out that Pat's dead. Could you come over? I'm going to call Mom and Dad in a minute, but... yeah. Call Chip for me too? Thanks, Bri."
  Hanging up the phone, she sat holding her son and hoped.

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