User:Michael Bard/Escaping my Father
Escaping my Father
by Michael Bard
I walked back into the house.
"Good afternoon sir.", it was James, our butler. "Did you have a good ride?"
I just nodded and walked on - I had, but now I was hot and tired. I walked into the living room to sit down and relax. Probably I would take a swim later, but for now I just wanted to sit. I grabbed the remote and turned the TV on. It was the noon news.
"...announced a new program of tree replanting to rejuvenate the lumber yards he acquired last year."
The picture switched to my father, leaning on a shovel. He was still awkward in his new body.
"Mr. Wang.", the interviewer began. "You were going to leave this land alone. Why the sudden change?"
"My advisors reminded me of this, and I realized the potential benefits. Both in lumber for the future, and in recreational land for general use."
"Has you new youth affected your decision at all?"
My father laughed. "Being young and aware makes one think of lots of things in a new light."
Refusing to watch the rest, I just threw the remote at the TV and then stalked out of the room. I heard James behind me picking it up.
Here I was. An adult. With more money than I could ever spend. With everything I ever wanted. Able to buy anything I needed, or even thought of. Most would think this was a perfect life.
Why wasn't it?
Because my life had no meaning. My father had built up the family fortune. I had waited, training to take over when he retired. Waited until I could make a difference. Then the new transplant technology became available. And my father moved to a new body.
Younger even than mine.
So, now what can I do to achieve something?
I walked into the gym, put on some boxing gloves, and started working with the punching bag. At least I had pride in my body. I imaged the bag as my father.
Take that for stealing my hopes!
Take that for stealing my dreams!
Eventually I stopped. It never worked. I was still angry at him.
Sighing, I threw the gloves into the corner and took a shower. I kept the water cold, trying to drive my anger out. I loved my father. I always had. But ever since he became young again, my anger had just kept building.
As the cold water lashed my back, I tried to figure out where my hatred and frustration were coming from. It was easy. I had everything anybody wanted, and nothing to achieve. I had never had to work for anything. I had no trouble in school. I knew almost as much about business as my father, but he wanted to run everything.
I needed to do something. I needed to achieve something. I needed to become famous in my own right. I never wanted to hear 'Oh right, you're his son.' again. But what could I do?
The world had been explored. Space travel was cheap, especially since they had finally figured out how gravitational fields really worked. With cheap and easy travel there were already colonies on the moon and mars. I'd already been to those. I could go further. Be the first. But why? There was no more challenge in it, all the difficulties had been hammered out - it was only a matter of time till somebody made it.
What about the stars? Certainly they could be reached. It would only take forty or fifty years. We couldn't build a ship to support somebody that long. It was being worked on though. But did I want to take the risk of some kind of cold sleep?
I turned the water off, and played around with that idea. Star travel. Being the first to reach Alpha Centauri... No, it wouldn't work. Any kind of expedition would have to be huge to make it doable. There was no sense in a single person going. I didn't have the skills, or any interest in getting them, to become the captain. Only he would be famous. Sigh. Another idea down the drain.
I dried myself off with more violence than I really needed to. James had put some clean clothes nearby and I dressed. Now what? I decided to go and check on my horse Shadowdancer, just to make sure she had been rubbed down and bedded properly. Of course she had. That's what servants were for.
I should probably stop in the kitchen to get her a treat, but then I checked my pocket. Yup. There was an apple James had put there. I wasn't even needed for that. I took out the apple and fingered it. I wanted to throw it, to squash it beneath my feet. But the servants would clean it up and in an hour it would be like nothing happened. James would probably even figure out a way to sneak a replacement into my pocket. I put the apple back - at least Shadowdancer could enjoy it.
The stables weren't too far, but it was getting hot in the late afternoon. I stuck to the shade as much as I could. Various servants greeted me, but I just ignored them. I reached the barn much too soon and made my way to Shadowdancer - she nickered a greeting.
And yes, she had been rubbed down. The stall had been cleaned. Her skin had been brushed until it glowed. The tack was hung and polished.
As though I didn't even exist.
Shadowdancer ignored my moping and scented the apple. She started nosing the pocket where it was hiding.
"All right, all right.", I said, laughing for the first time today.
I pulled it out and she grabbed it from my hand and gulped it down. Then she started sniffing for more.
"Sorry, that's it, you greedy little lady."
Finally Shadowdancer stopped sniffing and just looked at me. I started rubbing her forehead. She had always liked that. At least she was happy. At least she was loved.
That's my life. I have everything anybody could ever want. More money than I could ever spend. People fawning and doing everything for me. A young and healthy body. Women who would marry me in a second. But none who would love me. None who would make me happy. Shadowdancer was happy. I would have switched places with her in a second. If only I could.
Why couldn't I?
I remembered somebody I knew - he had created a new body for himself that could actually fly. I remembered his showing it off the first time - and his broken wing after he crashed. Why couldn't I be a horse? I would certainly be different then. They couldn't compare that to my father.
I stopped rubbing Shadowdancer and looked at her. She pushed her head against me, wanting more, but I just stared.
If I was a horse, I would still have to have people waiting on me. They would make my food, make my stall. They would clean and wash me. I could make my new body strong enough to compete - right now, as a jockey, I couldn't. I was too big. Shadowdancer couldn't because of a lack of lineage. A new body couldn't, again because of lineage. And I would end up spending most of my time staring at a wooden wall.
Yea, it was a silly idea.
No hands, no tools, and I'd be right back where I was now, everybody waiting for me, and nobody really caring.
But did I have to be fully a horse? I remembered reading about centaurs in my youth. That was possible. It would certainly be different. I would be unique. In fact, I could patent the design and own a new race. Did I want that?
No. Not to own. But I could choose companions.
I started rubbing Shadowdancer's head again, and she pushed against my fingers.
But who'd want to? Did I really want to? Did it matter if I was alone? I was already alone. As a centaur, I would at least be different from my father. I could start to make my own way. I've occasionally wondered what it would be like to be a different being - who hadn't? If other people wanted, I could create a race.
I would make a difference.
"Why not?", I asked Shadowdancer. "Would you like some company in the field?"
She just looked at me.
Why the hell not? It couldn't hurt to at least look into it.
I gave Shadowdancer one last rub, and turned to leave. She stretched her neck and neighed, but she would have to live without more head rubs until tomorrow. I had to see if centaurhood was possible.
I walked back to the house, oblivious to the surroundings, playing around with thoughts in my head. What would it be like? What would it be like to run like the wind? What would it be like to leap over a fence? What would it be like to roll my fur in the dirt? I actually smiled at that thought.
Eventually I made it to the house and reached my office. I hadn't used it since my father recovered and took over the businesses again. Still, it was perfectly clean. All the furniture polished, everything in its place.
I sat down and pressed the auto-dial button for the biological research facility my father owned. He had made sure to buy it before his transplant. It actually had a video phone - as did all of my fathers companies. My father demanded a visual contact when discussing business. I waited until the secretary answered.
"Dr. Walter's Office. She's very busy right now, but I can take a message."
She hadn't even recognized me so I had to introduce myself: "This is Mr. Robert Wang Jr." I saw her face pale as she recognized my fathers name. "Yes, that son. I would like to speak to the doctor as soon as possible."
"Yes sir. Right away sir." She turned away and got up leaving the range of the camera.
Once again, it was fear of my father, not me.
I waited about five minutes until the picture flickered and I saw Dr. Walter. She was young, only about thirty, but she was brilliant. My father had rescued her from the southern US where she had been tricked into indentured work and research. She had been tricked because she was of Negro descent. Experts for my father, who had read her published papers, helped him track her down. He had chosen her to oversee his own transplant.
"Why Robert! Its good to see you again. How's your father doing?"
"He's fine. He's not why I called." Dr. Walter leaned closer to the camera. "I want to ask you some questions related to his operation."
"Is the transplant limited to a clone? I know somebody who was transplanted into a body with wings. What is involved in that?"
"I take it you want a quick overview for now."
"A clone is easiest. There is no genetic work to be done, no modification to prevent a possible rejection of the transplanted brain. Theoretically any kind of body could be created, if the genetic code could be worked out. It should be possible to program the genes to treat two groups of cells as friendly which should solve the rejection problem..." She paused to think. "What kind of changes are you curious about?"
Well, here it goes. "Part human, part animal forms. Something like a satyr or a centaur."
Her only reaction was to raise her eyebrows. The she continued. "A satyr would be fairly easy. There are no extra limbs or joints. A centaur would be much harder. There would be the extra two limbs, and tail. Additionally, the design would be harder. A satyr is really a human with a different leg structure. A centaur has the chests of two animals. We would have to work out what went where during the design stages."
No, she wasn't stupid. Already she was thinking 'we'.
She continued. "The other problem would be learning to use the new limbs. There is no existing wiring for extra limbs or a tail. The neural control of these limbs would have to be simulated so that it could be mapped in the brain, and then linked into the new body. It would certainly be interesting to try." She paused and then stared into the camera, "So, what kind of centaur were you thinking of?"
All I could stammer out was, "What?"
"Its you calling, not your father. I heard from you frequently while he was recovering. Then you were alive and alert. Now I haven't heard from you in months, and you look tired. A satyr's too easy. You're bored, aren't you?"
At least she wasn't talking down to me. Guess I would bring my reasons out into the open sooner than planned. "Not really bored, just feeling useless."
"Before, I always knew I would take over from my father someday. When my father was recovering, I was taking care of everything. Now he's back in control and I'm stuck. I can have anything I want, but nobody even knows me anymore." She was nodding.
"Have you talked to your father about this yet?"
I grimaced. "Not yet. It just hit me about an hour ago." I paused and she waited. "What do you think about the whole idea?"
"Well, it would certainly put you back into the limelight. You wouldn't be known solely as his son anymore. But it is a huge step."
"How about this then? Relax for the rest of the day and sleep on it. I'll start playing around with some ideas. Fortunately I know a group working on mapping the horse genome for breeding purposes in Germany. Its run by a Dr Terris - we were in school together. Come down tomorrow afternoon and we'll look into this seriously, and see what is involved. How does 2:00pm sound?"
For a second as she talked I resented her. It sounded like she was trying to run my life, that the challenge was important, not me. But I forced myself to listen and realized that she made sense. I couldn't make this decision lightly.
"2:00pm tomorrow is fine. I look forward to seeing you then."
"Good day Robert.", she said, and disconnected.
I slowly let the phone slide to the desk. What was I doing? Did I really want to be a centaur?
Well, the ball was started. Now to see how far I could keep it going. The next step was my father. If he didn't agree, it would not happen. I called his number. It rang seven times before he finally picked it up.
"Robert? Now isn't a good time."
As the video cleared, I could see that he was worried, distracted. He always was in regards to me. Well, I would get his attention soon enough.
"I need to talk to you. I want to ask you something."
"Do you need to know right now?"
I took a deep breath. "I want to become a centaur."
I heard somebody calling for my father beyond his video pickup.
"Just a minute. Keep them on hold."
"If that's what you want, son. Let me know how it turns out."
"I'll talk to you later. Have fun."
And he disconnected.
I just stared at the phone, disbelieving. I had said I wanted to become a mythical creature. He had said fine. Nothing else. No queries; no congratulations. Just 'have fun', 'talk to me later'.
I looked for something to throw at the screen, but the servants had already removed any likely objects. I had to satisfy myself with a few books. By the time I ran out, I had calmed down. I screamed "Fine!" at the video screen and stamped out. Behind me, I could hear the servants cleaning up.
Now what? It was still late in the afternoon. Fine. I'll go now and get started. My father doesn't care. Who'll notice?
I called one of the pilots that my father kept handy. I picked a smaller prop plane - I definitely wasn't in a hurry. When it was arranged, a car pulled up and drove me to the plane. Then it was into the air and on my way.
The air trip was quiet and trouble free and I arrived in Toronto at around midnight. I was driven to the house there and went to bed.
I would show them, I would show them all.
That night I dreamed. I don't remember the details but I remember running and jumping faster than I ever had. I was different. I had four legs. It was wonderful, until I tripped, and fell, and heard the frightening snap of my leg. And the frightening boom as my father shot me to put me out of my misery.
After that, I couldn't sleep anymore. I just paced around. Finally I made my way to the library, and saw a collection of Greek myths on the coffee table. I finally got to sleep reading about the centaur Nessus and his betrayal of Heracles.
I slept late, and was awoken by the smell of coffee and pancakes brought in by a servant. I checked the time - it was 11:30. Lots of time. I ate with relish, and then called for a car. By 1:15 I was at the institute waiting for Dr Walter.
She was there waiting for me, even though I was early. Thank god for that - I don't know what I would have done for forty-five minutes.
"Good afternoon, Mr Wang. Are you still interested?"
"Definitely." And certainly more than my father which wouldn't be difficult.
"Well then, lets go to my office."
She led, and I followed, even though I knew the way. When we arrived I saw that it hadn't changed. The same antique leather-bound books, the wooden carving of a leaping dolphin on the desk. Dr Walter had once done work on dolphin neural-physiology. She sat down, and turned the flat screen sitting on her desk towards me. The screen lit up, and we both looked at various drawings and sketches of a centaur.
"It actually wasn't hard to work out the basics. There's been a small group looking into this for years, but nobody's actually been able to do anything with it yet."
"Other people want this?"
"Sure. That doctor in Germany I mentioned - this is his real dream. The whole racehorse breeding thing is just a smokescreen. But right now his funding is in danger of being cut off due to a lack of applications." As she was talking, she touched a skeletal outline in one corner and it expanded to fill the screen.
I recognized most of the skeleton as that of a horse, legs, tail, chest, all were the same. Placed above the fore legs was the chest, head, and arms, of a human. Again, they looked unchanged, although the human body looked at little small. Dr. Walter zoomed in to the joint between the two.
"As you can see, most of the body is simple, its just the appropriate pieces of the two forms stuck together. The problem is the glue." She zoomed in, though some protective bony plates, to a ball and socket joint. "This is the key. There's been all kinds of schemes played with over the years, but this one has become dominant. As you can see, the main joint is on the waist that joins both forelegs. This puts most of the weight of the upper body directly onto the forelimbs since a horse's body is built that way in the first place. The joint, along with the spine in the human half, is designed to allow maximum movement. You'll be able to turn your waist completely around."
"What about the plate overtop of it, above and behind?"
"That's the weak link. The problem is the spinal column, and joining the human column to the horse's column. If you want to go with the classical Centaur form, then it has to be at right angles. The other choice is to tilt the whole human body forward about 60 degrees and have the head face forward."
She touched another picture which moved to the centre of the screen. It showed a skeleton that looked almost like a horse's, except that the neck was a human rib cage.
"This design solves the joint problem, but sacrifices a lot of mobility, and still places substantial strain as the human portion is more massive than a horse's head and neck." She touched the first picture, and the variant went away. "The plate you were asking about is designed to provide some protection for the spinal column. The body is set up so that the spinal cord goes through the human spine, then is left open to meet the horse's spine. The plate is to protect the open nerves as they move from the human spine to the horse's. There is slack to allow the twisting motion, but this one bony plate is all that stops a severe and almost total paralysis."
"Are there any other ideas?"
"There's also what is known as the 'remote control' model."
She touched another picture, and it moved to the front. It looked like the first one, but the plate at the joint of the human and horse was missing.
"Let me show you the nervous system, and you'll see where it got its name." She touched an icon, and a fine network of lines appeared throughout the diagram, along with the two brains.
"That's where it got its name. The idea is to lighten the spinal cord at the joint by having a second brain control the basic functions of the horse's body. Somewhat like they once thought the dinosaurs worked. It would control basic movements so that the spinal joint was less critical."
"Okay." I said slowly. "What would it be like?"
"The belief is that it would be like running by remote control. You, as the controlling brain in the head, would want to move faster. This command would go to the hind brain which would control the complexities of the movement."
I leaned back in my chair, confused. "Anybody have any ideas as to what that would be like?"
"There's some fiction on the internet, but most of it becomes quite Frankensteinian. The best guess is that it would be like asking a dog to do tricks, but there would be no disobedience. The other limit would be sensations. The smaller spinal link would make the entire horse's body feel somewhat numb. How much, is open to speculation."
If I was going to do this, I wanted to experience all of it. "I think the first one is the best way to go."
She just nodded, and brought it back to the front. "That's what I figured. Its also the preferred form by most of the people who have played around with the idea."
"Why is the human half so small?"
She pressed a menu, and brought up a human figure and placed it beside the centaur skeleton for scale.
"This human is scaled to you, as you are now."
I nodded, and looked. My head was about the same height as the centaur's head, and I was just over six feet. The horse body started at my chest, so the human body would fit a person about three feet high - a child.
"Again, it boils down to the joint between the two bodies. If the human body was scaled to adult size, the stress would be too much. This is about the maximum size you can get and still have enough strength in the hip joint."
I looked closer at the human half and noticed that the chest width was about right, but its height was only half what mine would be.
"However, the human half doesn't look childish. The width is actually that of a man your size, but the change starts about halfway down your chest, which is why the human half looks so short."
"The reason we can get away with the small size is that the human chest holds nothing."
I turned and looked at her. "What?"
She pointed at the horse's chest. "You have to remember, we have two chest structures to work with. The human body contains muscle for the arms, and a trachea going to the horse's lungs. The horse's chest contains the heart, liver, kidney, etc. There dead air in the throat isn't a problem as the trachea is no longer than that of a normal horse."
"Another reason for the shortness of the human body I take it?"
"Exactly. The other problem with the classical centaur is mass and lung volume. There have been various designs such as two sets of lungs working as bellows to supply the entire body, or additional trachea to the horse's lungs, but the efficiency just wasn't there. Of course, you don't even have to go with a horse."
"There's been all kinds of ideas. People have made a whole group of what they call 'taurs'. They've played with feline bodies, antelope bodies, even giraffe bodies."
I could just shake my head. "I don't know. Lets stay with a horse for now."
She stopped, and turned to face me. "Are you sure you want to do this? If you don't, now is the time to quit. If anybody else is making you do it, then tell me now and I'll prove that it can't be done. I won't force anybody into anything like this."
I turned and looked at the skeleton pictured on the desktop. I tried to picture myself there. Then I remembered the first half of the dream from last night. I remembered galloping with Shadowdancer, leaning over with my chest against her neck so that I could feel her running with my whole body. I remembered the wind through my hair, and the scent of her sweat mingled with my own. I looked back up at Dr Walter. I didn't know the answer.
"What about your father?"
I remembered our conversation yesterday - if one could even call it that. I felt my anger rise, but forced it under control. "Yes.", I said quietly. "I am sure."
I would show him that I could make my own way.
I would make him proud of me for what I had done, not just for what I had babysat for him.
"Good." She rubbed her hands. "Then lets go into all the gory details."
For the rest of the afternoon I watched and listened as she built up the skeleton with nerves, organs, muscles, and skin. We discussed the limits of the body, and its requirements. I made sure to include voluntary control over bowl movement. We went through each muscle, and played with its range of motion, its strengths, its limits. We looked at the head and its senses. We tried ear designs. Most of the designs on the internet featured mobile horse's ears, but there was no real reason for that. I wanted my ears kept human. I did decide to base my centaur on a horse. After all, I knew horses. I understood them.
We were interrupted by Dr. Walter's secretary.
"Sir?", she asked meekly. "Mr. Wang?"
I turned and looked at her.
"Its your father."
"What?", I whispered.
Dr. Walter turned to me. "You said you had told him."
"I had. He probably didn't even hear the words." I got up. "Is there a private room I can take the call in?"
"This way.", the secretary said.
"Keep working.", I told the doctor. "I'll be back shortly."
The secretary led me down a hall into a plush office. There was the usual videophone connection at the desk. As I sat down she left and pulled the door closed behind her. I looked into my father's face.
"What the hell are you doing?!", he shouted.
I glared at him. "Exactly what I told you."
I watched him force himself to calm down. Here we go again. It was like this when he finally took back control of the businesses. Every mistake I had made was that of an idiot. How could I, his son, do something so stupid? Here is the correct way. Didn't I know the correct way? Why didn't I use the correct way...
"How could you be so stupid? You're young and healthy. You have everything you could ever want. What possible profit could there be in this?"
That's right, it was always about profit and business. I couldn't say anything.
"It has to be the most harebrained thing I have ever heard of. It makes no sense! You don't gain anything. Why?"
"Because I have nothing else to do."
"What?! You have businesses to learn to run. You'll take it over from me some day. You have to prepare yourself. You have to practice and work. Get up early. Go to bed late. Always look for the opportunities. Don't waste your time with this."
I couldn't take it anymore. "What businesses to run?!"
"My companies. You know they've always been half yours. We agreed..."
"When I tried to run them, everything I did was wrong! Everything I did you could have done better! Everything I did I should have known better!" My father just stared, as I went on. I slowly stood up as I continued. "For years I was to be your prodigy. I would take things over. I would do it better than you. I would make us even more money. But why?! We can't ever spend what we already have!"
My father responded in a calm and level voice. "Why are we in business?"
Time to chorus back the answer he had hammered into me over the years, "To make money." I whispered.
"And how is becoming a centaur going to make us money?", he quietly continued, as though talking to a child.
"It is not going to make us money.", I whispered.
"Then why are you doing it?"
I forced myself to sit down and calm myself as he waited. This was the last straw. "Because I want to."
"What?!", he roared. "You want to run the businesses. You want to make money. You want to be successful."
"No, you want me to be successful!", I screamed at him. "You want the money. You always want more money. It has to be done your way. Your way is always the right way. We are in business to make money. Your way is the right way. You know the best way. Only your way is right!"
For once in his life my father was speechless.
I continued. "You wanted me to run the businesses. And I let you force me into it. I tried to learn. I tried to improve. But it was never good enough. Then, finally, you had to trust me as you were transplanted into your new body. Now you're fucking younger than I am! When the hell will I ever run anything?!"
"When you're ready I'll step aside and relax. But you aren't ready yet. You're proving it now..."
"By your standards I'll never be ready! You will never step down. You enjoy running everything too fucking much! You enjoy running me too much!" I screamed, "No more!"
And then I hung up.
On my father.
And I began crying and sobbing, letting years of frustration and anger out.
The phone started beeping, but I ignored it. Eventually it stopped.
Finally I forced myself to calm down. I went to the private washroom and cleaned up. I always had to look proper. It only takes a minute to clean up. I always have to do things his way.
I would have broken away years ago, but he was always right. Every time I didn't do something his way, he proved that his way was the right way.
How can you argue with that?
Finally, I finished. I opened the door and calmly walked back to Dr. Walter. She turned and looked up.
"My father didn't seem to pay attention the first time I asked." I think she knew what my control was costing me. "I imagine he's on his way here right now. Lets continue while we can before he comes and takes me home again."
"Are you sure you don't want to wait for a while?", she asked.
I just sighed. "No. At least we can get some more of the problems hashed out for somebody in the future."
My father came roaring into Dr. Walter's office about five hours later.
"We have to talk. Now.", he said to me.
He walked off. I sighed, then followed. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Dr. Walter shaking her head.
We went back to the office I had used earlier and my father closed the door behind me. He turned to face me.
"Sit down." He motioned to a chair in front of the desk.
Of course he would sit at the desk. I sat down, and waited.
He walked over and sat down. At the desk. And said nothing. I just sat there, my hands clasped in my lap and waited. Eventually he spoke.
I stared at him in shock.
"I'll never give up running the businesses. Its too much of my life."
I waited for him to go on, unable to believe what he was saying.
"I thought about things a lot on my way here. And you're right about the money. Why on earth do we need any more?"
I closed my eyes. "Why do we need more?", I asked in my learning sing-song voice.
I finally realized he wasn't yelling. "What?"
"We don't need any more money. You're right. I'm wrong."
I didn't know what to do. I had waited for this day for so long. I had prayed so often for it to come. And now that it had, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say.
"I love you, you know.", my father continued. "You never knew your mother, but you always use to remind me of her. But now you don't. You remind me of yourself."
I was finally able to speak. "What do you mean?"
"For years I rode you. I hammered at you. You wouldn't make any of the mistakes I made. You would be greater than me. Every little mistake I had made, I made sure you would never make again."
"But I was never good enough.", I whispered.
"You're wrong, you were. I was just too self centred to think to ask what you wanted. For years I thought that business was what you wanted to do."
I just stared at him as he continued.
"I thought that business was what you really wanted, that you were driven to succeed in it by your own desires. I thought that what I was doing was what you wanted." He paused, and then asked, "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had told him, hadn't I? I tried to remember, but I couldn't remember actually saying it. "I was afraid of what you would say.", I whispered. "I hinted, I implied, but I was too afraid to say the truth."
"How could you be afraid?"
"Wouldn't you be? The smallest thing I did that was wrong, that was different from what you would have done, resulted in long lectures and punishments so I wouldn't do it again. If I had said no, how could I expect you to act otherwise?"
My father paused, and then finally answered, "Is it because of me, that you want to do this?"
I paused. Then I knew what to say, "You always wanted to win. Business was how you would do it. But I never had that need. I have different needs."
"What are they?"
"I need to be myself, not you. You are a great man. There are times I'm so proud of you. But then there are times I hate you. But I'm not you."
"I know. Its taken me years, but I've finally realized that."
"But nobody else does! To everybody else I'm just your son. I've never done anything but hide in your shadow."
He sighed. I could see him collecting his thoughts. Finally he spoke, "You want out of my shadow. You want to make your own." I nodded. "And this is how you will do it."
"Yes.", I whispered.
"Are there any other reasons? There must be easier ways?"
I swallowed. "Happiness. The only time I've ever been happy is when I'm riding. When I have the wind in my hair. When its just me and the world. With this I can always be riding."
"Then you have my permission."
My jaw hung open. I couldn't believe it, but I would take my prize and run.
"With two conditions."
I closed my eyes. Here it comes, the reasonable conditions that made sure I would do what my father wanted.
"Yes. What are they.", I answered by rote.
"You'll keep the same face, hair, retina, fingerprints, that you have now. Any identifying marks. Any characteristics that you use for identity you'll keep the same."
That was actually reasonable. It always started that way.
"The second, forgive me if you can."
"Yesterday, when you called, I was talking to a company from San Francisco. They're they major world supplier of the silicates from the ocean floor."
I nodded. I'd heard of them. They were responsible for much of the current revolution in technology.
My father continued. "I think that they are using transplants to create slaves."
I just stared at him.
"I've been looking for ways to buy into their business for almost a decade. Unfortunately, mechanical methods are too expensive. At the prices they offer they have to be using a biological solution."
My mind began to click. "They created a new body, like a centaur."
"Not a centaur, but the same idea. They are associated with several companies that advertise cheap transplants in return for indentured labour."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"No. But none of these companies have ever had a single success. They have clients, but something always goes wrong. Its never their fault - usually the clients commit suicide. A couple have been murdered."
"I am. But they always have lots of money to hand to the right people. And they always have a body. And its always the right one. I could never figure out how they could fake that until my transplant."
"That's why they have the bodies...", I began to nod.
"Exactly. They get slave labour, and everything is accounted for. I fear that somewhere in the ocean depths a horrible injustice is being done. And I'm going to do something about it."
"And what about me?"
"At first I thought you had fallen for them. But then I realized that you had come to Dr. Walter, somebody I had hired."
"And you never make mistakes."
He smiled. "Usually. And hence my conditions. If you are transplanted, there is a risk that you could be replaced, undetectably. I don't want that to happen."
"Well I don't either. I agree. Shake?"
And we shook. And then we hugged. It had been so long since we could just love each other.
That night my father and I went out to dinner together. For the first time I could remember, we didn't talk about business. He told me about my mother. I could barely remember her, but his voice brought that memory into focus. If only she had lived, my father and I could have been so much happier.
As the night continued, we kept on talking and chatting, and never once did my father mention my plans. Never once did he try to talk me out of it. He even told me about his experiences on horse back, for the few seconds they had lasted before he fell off.
Gradually, I began to believe that he had changed. Before he had sometimes seemed to, but it never lasted. This time was different. Finally I had to ask. "Why the change?"
"It sounds like you trust me. That for once, you think that I am actually doing the right thing."
My father paused. "Ever since I got my youth back, I didn't know what would happen to you. Always we had assumed you would take over when I was too old. But now that'll never happen. When you actually hung up the phone, I think that was the shock that finally opened my eyes. I only wished it hadn't taken so long."
We stayed up late talking, but finally I went to the house, and he went to make his way back to the head office.
The next few months passed quickly. I was finally happy. My father respected me. As time passed and his new attitude stayed, I finally grew to accept it. We talked, but didn't say much. I was too busy with the design of my body, and he was too busy trying to figure out the truth behind the underwater mining. I often wondered why he had changed, was it just time? Or did his new body change his soul, for the better? My father also suggested some kind of security. We tried to keep the project as secret as we could, so we had only a few hired and trusted men who posed as security guards.
Throughout these months, I worked with Dr Walter and her staff designing the body. We had hammered out the basics the first day, now it was really a matter of filling in the holes and making things work. I even read some of the fiction he had mentioned - most of it was just a description of a transformation, usually by magic, or technology working in impossible ways, but some was quite good. Few dealt with reasons for choosing to change - most had the change inflicted by an outside force, or happen by accident. I had my reasons, but I often wondered why others would want to.
My father and I also retained a lawyer in Toronto and I met with him and outlined my plans. He looked a bit confused, and skeptical, but did agree to keep records and act as legal counsel in case of problems after my transplant. We arranged to store various documents that might be needed in case of problems with my identity with him - I also kept him up to date as per the schedule for the transplant. I didn't see any reason to give him details of my new body. Just to be safe, at my father's urging, I also kept a detailed physical description, physical characteristics, identifying criteria - finger prints, retina, and detailed brain waves - stored at a government laboratory.
Eventually the design was settled on. My new body would be able to eat both human food, and grasses. The horse's stomach was there to handle the digestion, and could even handle meat in small quantities, just like a normal horse. My new body could even sleep on its chest, or on its side - mostly due to its smaller size and the stronger legs and chest. Simulations with the lung volume finally resulted in adding a few air slits in the neck - these were needed to allow extra air flow to the lungs without horribly enlarging my mouth and distorting my face - although my neck was noticeable larger. We kept the design secret, ready to release it when I was able to make the announcement from my new body.
Dr. Walter and her staff began growing my new body, and had to start it multiple times. The first few never even survived birth. Later ones quickly developed strange cancers, or weird and horrible mutations. But tinkering with the genetics gradually resolved the problems, until finally a new body was successfully growing for me. The genetics also took care of tissue rejection concerns - my new body was coded so that it would accept both its own cells, and cells from my human body, as native.
I had chosen to keep my human body as it was, as what my father had asked made a lot of sense. My horse half I modeled on a dun with black points. I made the legs as long and fast as I could, but they had to be balanced against the extra demands of my human half. The fore legs had to be shorter and stronger, and the hind legs were changed to match. I would look a bit stubby, but I would be able to move easily. The only change in the natural dun colouring was the tail - it was blonde to match my hair.
I took a break while the successful growth of my body began, and went back to see my father. A few nights later he handed me a box that contained some things of my mother's - some jewelry, a mirror. But most importantly a set of notes and videos that she recorded for me shortly after I was born. These recorded her hopes for me, and her loves. A lot of them were made as she was lying in bed dying from cancer. I cried myself to sleep that night. The next day I arranged for a safety deposit box in Toronto and sent them there with James for safe keeping.
After I returned, I was immersed in a virtual simulation of my new body. The best that money could buy. At first it was for short periods, as the simulation was developed, but as my new body grew, the simulation became more complex. Finally, as my new body was nearing completion, I went into the simulation and remained there. I learned to live, eat, and breath in my new body, or as best as the simulation could make me seem to. Sometimes I thought that I was using the remote control body as the feeling in my horse half never felt quite right. Throughout this nanites were in my real body, and they mapped my neural patterns as I walked and galloped. The tuned and refined it as best they could. Without them the transplant would be much more difficult, and the recovery much longer.
Finally, almost two years after I had decided to change, my new body was ready. It would have been much longer but for the preliminary work others had done. Dr. Walter came into the simulation and explained the operation to me. It would be long, and during most of it I would be awake. I would have to guide the surgeons who controlled the nanites who would connect the nerves. When we were both ready, my real body was sent into unconsciousness, and my mind in its virtual world followed.
While I was asleep my brain, along with the optic nerves and my eyes, were transplanted into my new body.
I awoke in the bright lights of an operating room. My new body was suspended upright, my legs dangling just above the floor. My skull had been sealed, and now it was time for the doctors and nanites to do their work. My new body had been grown in a bio-chemical vat and most of the gunk had been wiped off, but I could still feel lots caking my coat. Already I could hear and understand pieces of the conversation. My eyes were still my own, and I could use them to signal. The first task was my various senses and muscles in my head - improving the hearing, and gaining the ability to talk. Hearing was easy, so was making noise. Talking so that I could mostly be understood was hard.
I remembered that they had had particular trouble with my father and his speech. Afterward he had said that he had tried too hard to say too much and could only manage gibberish. He had suggested that I concentrate on simple sounds, and on only one sound at a time. This was the plan made with Dr Walter. So I started with simple sounds, and then simple words. Eventually I could talk clearly, although sometimes I would descend into mumbling.
My involuntary functions were already working as they were controlled by my new medula oblongata which was grown with the new body, and kept there, so the next task was conscious control over them. Breathing was the main one, It was hard at first as I could feel my chest rising and falling, but it felt so far away. It wasn't until I got use to that sensation that the voluntary control could be completed. After I could finally breath at will, we moved on to my arms.
These should have been easy, as the wiring was already present, but proved to be very difficult. I think that the main reason for this was the complexity. I needed to be able to control the arms, the wrist, the fingers, the thumbs, the knuckles, and all the rest. We started with the arm, and then moved down to the hand and fingers. Mostly this involved nurses moving the joint, and I trying to control it. Eventually, we settled on being able to simply move the limbs - the nanites would remain and would help grow the nerves as I practiced final control.
Then it was time for my horse's body. The waist and spine was done quickly - we concentrated on being able to twist, rather than amount or control. The forelegs were also easy as these used the existing wiring for my old legs. Again, we settled more on being able to move them, than on fine control. Then came the hind legs - these were the hardest part of the whole process. First, they were completely new. Secondly, they had a completely different orientation of joints. They were also at the far end of my spinal column. When I was finally able to move them, I heard the first clop of my hooves - the sound was familiar, but I felt the contact with the floor at a distance, more as a sensation with a numb limb, then a foot on the floor.
Finally came my tail. After all that had come before it was almost simple. Control would have to come later, but it wasn't long until I could at least cause it to shake and move - although not always where I wanted it to
The operation was finally done. The last monitors were disconnected, and I was hooked up to an IV and given a sedative in preparation to being carted to my room. The doctors started positioning a sling under my chest and I could feel myself sway a bit. I was starting to fade out when the door to the room burst in, pushed open by three men. They all had guns. They used them to motion the various doctors and nurses away from my body. I recognized all three as the guards my father had insisted upon.
I tried to stay awake. What was going on?
Then another figure came. It was a woman, one I had never seen before.
Dr. Walter was the first to gather her wits and speak. "What are you doing here? This is an operating theatre..."
The woman spoke. "And we shall operate. But first, I have to take care of a little business." She turned to face me.
"What...?", I tried to speak but could barely stay awake. This couldn't be happening. It must be drugs, fatigue. It must be my imagination...
"Money?", I managed to get out. "I can...", I couldn't remember what I was trying to say. My sight began to blur, I saw three women in front of me.
They laughed. "You don't understand. I want all of it." Then she shot me through my chest, exactly where my heart would have been if I had been human.
The pain shocked me out of my fog. "What are you doing?", I managed to croak out. The room was starting to spin, whether from the shot, or from the drugs, I couldn't say.
Dr. Walter rushed over to me. "No! Marie, get some bandages! We might be able to save his heart and his life before its too late."
My heart, it wasn't there...
The woman leading the group walked over to Dr. Walter. "Anybody who moves to help this thing...", she pointed at me, "... will be killed." She turned to face Dr. Walter. "You have an operation to perform."
"I won't do anything for you."
The room faded to black, and I knew that I would soon lose consciousness. I didn't want to die. I started to sway back and forth...
The last thing I heard was the woman's response, "If you don't move away, I will shoot your friend here through his head. Now I can offer you more money then you could ever dream of, just for a little cooperation."
"I'm listening.", Dr Walter said.
I felt myself falling over. The sling hadn't been secured. I lost consciousness as I fell.
I eventually awoke - what I remembered must have been a dream as I was awake. A feeling of incredible well being and relaxation filled my body. I had had massages in the past, but they were nothing compared to what I felt now. I could feel the stiff wire of a brush being worked through my coat. The brushing went slowly, carefully working out the dried biochemical residue. Wherever I was brushed, my skin tingled as it loosened and the muscles underneath relaxed. I managed to turn my head and look at Dr. Walter brushing me. For some reason she had been crying. I noticed that we were in a barn, in a stall, and that she was standing on hay. I didn't care, I just felt too good. She didn't notice I was awake so I just watched in a delirium of comfort as she worked. She finished my hind quarters and moved on to my chest and I couldn't help but let out a huge sigh of contentment. My breath rustled her hair and she stopped and looked up.
"You're conscious, thank god!"
"No! Keep going!" I couldn't help but beg. I was still groggy, but the brushing felt so wonderfully good.
She shook her head and went back to work. Finally she said, "Does it really feel that good?"
I closed my eyes and sighed again. "It actually feels better than sex."
"Its one continuous orgasm through my entire body." I couldn't help but sigh in pleasure again. "Focused on the brush. Please don't stop."
She sighed, and shook her head. "No wonder horses like being brushed so much if its like that."
She finally finished my right side and moved around to my hindquarters on my left. I felt good. I felt relaxed. But my brain finally began working. There was something that had happened... But the brushing just felt so wonderful.
She continued, and I breathed deeply and sighed. This was a perfect life. Just standing, being brushed. Finally I fell back to sleep as Dr Walter reached my chest on my left side.
Gradually I awoke. I felt wide awake and relaxed. But I was thirsty and hungry. And I could smell hay. That shouldn't be.
I should be in the institute, in a room. There should be nurses, a call button.
I remembered the operation. I remembered a dream - something about a woman, something about being shot? I looked down at my chest - at a bullet wound just starting to heal.
Good God, was it real?
I had to know.
"Dr. Walter!", I shouted. "Anybody?!"
I heard a stool scraping on cement and footsteps. Then Dr. Walter opened the stall door. She smelled strange, almost acidic. Her eyes were red, and her hair was a mess. I remembered her brushing me, she had been crying then too.
"You're awake again.", she said. "At least something is going right. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. Except for this bullet hole.", I tried to point, but slapped my horse's side. The sound echoed in the barn. It stung.
"Can you feel that?", she asked.
"Of course. I have to learn control."
"Thank god! Try moving your tail."
Tail? Why was she so concerned? I remembered falling. Could she think I was paralyzed? I paused in shock. I couldn't be. I turned my head and torso as much as I could, awkwardly, and looked at my tail.
I tried to move it.
And it moved. I could feel the muscles rotating it around.
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
"Good.", she said. "There seems to be no spinal damage or brain damage. Fortunately the bullet went right through and the nanites must have managed the rest. You may have some kind of minor effects, but there is no way to tell. After your fall I feared a concussion. After our last conversation I feared the worst."
Last conversation? The brushing. I closed my eyes and sighed, remembering the contentment. But that had to wait. I turned to look at the doctor. "So what did happen? I remember the guards coming in, I remember a woman saying something about money. I remember starting to fall."
Dr Walter just grabbed me around my horse chest and started sobbing. I thought I should hold her, but remembered what happened when I had tried to point, so I just waited.
"Its not that bad.", I finally said. "I'm fine. A little bruised, but that's it."
She pushed herself away and turned to look at me, in shock. "That's not all! Everybody is dead!"
"They were all blown up!"
I wished I could grab her and shake some sense into her. "What the hell is going on?!"
"You really don't know, do you?", she whispered.
"Of course not, how would I?"
She sighed. "Yes, you're right. Its just so monstrous, it seems that everybody should know."
"Well then, kindly tell me!"
"Ok." She sighed and leaned against the side of the stall. "We had just finished the operation, as you remember, when the three security guards came in."
"Then this woman came in. I had never seen her before. You asked what she wanted, and she said money. You mumbled something, and then she shot you. I ran over and screamed that without aid you would die as she had hit your heart."
"I remember that. But she didn't My heart isn't where it used to be."
"You know, and I know, but she obviously didn't"
"I also remember her offering you money, and you listening."
She turned away. "Yes." She swallowed. "The only thing I could think to do was lie about your wound. I could only hope that when you fell over, nothing would be seriously damaged I had to distract her."
"So what happened after I fell over?"
"She offered me wealth beyond what I could imagine. She offered it to the others, but I was the only one who accepted. I could feel the other's hatred, but I had to keep her attention off you."
"The money didn't interest you?"
She laughed and turned back towards me. "Why would it? Between you and your father I have all the toys I could ever want. What would I do with more money? Then, I guess to make sure, she shot you through your head."
I tried to move my hand to my head, but couldn't make it move. But, now that I knew it was there, I could feel the bandage around my forehead. Finally I asked, "So why am I still alive?"
"Fortunately the bullet went right through. The nanites kept the bleeding down and you seem fine. In the past brain damage has resulted in a loss of memory, the inability to learn, the loss of some learned skills such as one of a pair of languages known." She shook her head. "We can transplant the brain, but don't know enough of its inner workings to predict what effects damage might cause. Given your consciousness and our discussion, it is likely that any effects you may have, if any, won't appear for years. You may have early senility or other mental problems. Its possible the nanites will prevent any permanent damage from occurring, but who knows? Can you remember things clearly, can you remember our conversation?"
I thought. I remembered my father, and our long conversation. I remembered my mother, dimly. I remembered the simulations, the operation. I remembered the grooming. "I think so. You were telling me about what happened after I fell over. About the woman who shot me." I swallowed thinking of the bullet that had gone through my skull. "So what did this woman want? Where is she now?"
Dr Walter turned around and leaned against the stall, facing away from me. For a long moment there was silence. I was about to speak, but she beat me to it.
"She wanted your body."
"With you lying on the ground, we put her under, and transplanted her brain into your old body. Before she went under, she mentioned that the guards had been extremely well paid to shoot all of us if we tried anything. She even had a vial of nanites that we were to use - they would start the nerve connections, and fix the immune system."
"How could they do that?"
She turned back to race me. "I don't know. Possibly, it could modify the DNA coding of the white blood cells over time to fix the problem, or even the DNA coding of all the cells. Or the nanites might just destroy any white cells that reached the brain/blood barrier at the edge of the brain. All I know is what she claimed."
"We put her into your body and sealed up your, well now her, skull. The nanites started working and she was conscious and moving limbs much faster that I thought possible. She must have been planning this for some time, and been practicing with a simulation of your body. But to do that, she would had to have a copy of your DNA. That way she could make a perfect simulation..."
I could see her mind starting to wrestle with the problem, but I still didn't know everything that had happened. "But you said everybody was dead?"
She clenched her fists and closed her eyes as she struggled to remain calm. Finally she opened her eyes and continued, "Well, the operation went fine, we tested the limbs, and everything worked. It went much faster and there was much more immediate control than when your father was transplanted."
I just nodded.
"When we were finished, the guards helped her, in your body, into a wheel chair that one had already gone to get, and they started wheeling her off. Just before they left, she turned and spoke to us in your voice. She said that they knew everything about us. If we told anybody, or tried anything, then we would all be killed. Our families would be killed. One of the guards pulled out a bunch of photographs and tossed them on your body. Then they left."
"What were the photographs?"
"I was the first to creep over and pick them up. They were all pictures of the staff, and of their families. They were very private pictures, taken at their homes. It showed couples making love, mothers tucking in their children, all kinds of personal things. Each photograph looked like it was taken through a scope of some kind, and there was a crosshair centred on every picture. We had no trouble getting the message."
I nodded. "They knew where everybody lived, and could kill them at any time."
"So why is everybody dead then? It sounds like they were trying to blackmail you."
She was silent and then whispered, "I think that was just temporary. They were planning to kill all the loose ends as soon as possible."
"So what happened then? Why am I here?"
"I grabbed a bunch of nurses, and together we lugged you down to the morgue. They tried to help you but I whispered to them not to do so. We were probably still being watched. They had to be convinced that you were dead, and that I was on their side. I'm afraid I wasn't very careful while helping to lug you."
"So, how did I get here?"
"As we were carrying you down, I whispered that they should put you into a truck for disposal, but drive you to my farm. I would care for you there. That is here. That night they did it, and they lugged you into a stall. I stayed away in case I was being watched."
"Fine. But, why are they all dead?"
"The next day I was driving to work at my usual time. A car, red I think, hit me two blocks away from the research institute, and then fled. My car was totaled, so I used my cellular to call for a policeman. They arrived just in time to witness a large bomb blow up the entire institute. And everybody..." She started crying again.
I started thinking. They come in, and steal my body. They are well prepared and familiar with me, but not with my new body. Probably because we had kept the plans secret in case of spies. They had let her join them, and apparently saved her from the bomb that killed everybody else. That way my body goes up in the explosion, the witnesses are blown to bits, and everything is taken care of. But, the police would have investigated.
"What about the bomb? Did the police find anything." I waited until Dr Walter looked up to face me. She had finally gotten control of herself again.
"The bomb was apparently planted by a terrorist group fighting for the purity of the human form. Russian or Greek religious purists, I think they claimed to be. And, of course, other members shot and killed the families of the various doctors and nurses." She laughed, a long, sick laughter.
"What about you?"
"Or, they even tried for me. Really they did. Luckily, they only got me through the arm.", she held out her left arm and I saw the bullet wound there.
"But at least I'm alive. We can contact my father, and get a real investigation started. We can..."
She just started laughing in that sick way again. "We could.", she said. "If they hadn't gotten him too."
"What?", I managed to step towards her, and tired to grab her, but just hit a wooden post. Then it started to sink in.
"Yup. They got everybody. Except you," she pointed at me, "and me." and then she pointed at herself.
I couldn't speak. My father was dead.
"Now that woman, as you, has taken over your father's empire. She has all the wealth. We have nothing."
My father was dead.
"So here we are, a traitor surgeon, and a freak, with big wanted posters, and no identity."
My father had been killed. I felt myself collapse to the floor.
Then Dr. Walter grabbed me around my human chest and started sobbing. I joined her.
My father was dead.
It was evening before I was finally able to speak. My father was dead, my life was stolen, but I was still alive. I had a new body which I had to learn, but I still had my knowledge. It was time to stop crying and start fixing. I had learned from my father there was no sense worrying about things you can't control.
I wrenched my thoughts back to the task at hand. I struggled to stand up, but couldn't get my legs to move right.
She leaned back and looked at my face.
"Help me up. I have to learn to do it myself. We have to get ready to fight back."
"I learn to control my body. My fingerprints, and retinal prints are the same. We challenge the imposter in court."
"That ought to be fun. Why won't they just kill you?"
"We have to make it as public as possible. We have to make it too expensive to kill us, too public."
"And once the trial starts?"
"Well, I'm me. So how can I lose?"
"Because your DNA isn't."
"But my knowledge is. I know all the passwords and codes for the various contacts and files. I know where everything is. There are records of what we did. Its a start."
I started struggling to lift myself up on my forelegs. I had the strength, but not the control to bend them.
"Let me help." Dr. Walter grasped my left foreleg and started to move it.
I could feel the muscles moving, and tried to make them move the right amount. At first I kept over reacting, moving the leg too far, causing it to flail around. Fortunately I didn't hit the doctor. Eventually, I was able to make small movements and managed to get my left leg under me. It wasn't easy, I could smell my sweat, and feel it caking in my hide. I could even feel my hot breath from my neck slits on my cheeks.
The doctor also collapsed in exhaustion. Finally she was able to get out, "Only three more to go."
I couldn't help but laugh.
"Oh, and you might as well start calling me Rebecca. No sense in formality between a nurse and her invalid."
I smiled again. "Whatever you say, Rebecca."
Then she moved to my right leg, and we got it braced without too much difficulty as I knew to try only small movements. It also seemed that my control was getting better. Finally, I forced the muscles on both legs to strain, and actually raised my fore half.
By now it was dark.
"Now what?", I managed to say once I had caught my breath.
But the doctor was already answering my question. The sling that I had been using in the hospital was still there, above me in the stall. She lowered it and wrapped it around my chest. Then she used a block and tackle to lift my body up. I tried to move my hind legs, but they just kicked at the air. Finally, I just relaxed and let her heave me up. I let my legs fall down straight until they were hanging just above the ground.
"I'm going to slowly lower you down, until you're standing. Shout if you have any problems.", the doctor called.
I just nodded.
Slowly she lowered me down. I could feel the weight of myself on my hooves, and could feel a bit of the hay underneath them. It felt more like I was standing on sandpaper, then standing on hay.
Rebecca walked over. "There. Now lets get started."
For the next six hours we worked on my arms. Rebecca would move them so that I could feel the muscles. Then I had to try to control them. She would take breaks to brush my hide while I tried to move my lower arm at the elbow. In addition to the pure pleasure, the brushing helped as I learned to feel each and every muscle and nerve. As the evening passed, I could finally manage some control. At least with my lower arm.
Finally Rebecca left, and I went to bed. It was awkward doing it standing up, but eventually I nodded off. Rebecca was back the next morning with dawn. I was definitely hungry, so she spoon fed me a lot of grain, and gave me a lot of water. During the night I had urinated onto the hay, and she just cleaned out the stall. That control would come with time too. I hoped. Finally, she hooked up two ropes over a pulley and lightly tied them to each of my wrists. That was so that my arms could help guide each other so that I could continue to learn control. Then she left.
For all that day, and the next, I moved my arms up and down. Gradually I was able to move them at will. Each night Rebecca came and helped me with my other limbs, both by manipulation, and by brushing. We used the sling for support while I learned to move my legs. As time passed, she began hooking ropes between my legs and my arms during the day, so that I could use my arms to move my legs so that I could feel the muscles. In the evenings we continued with my legs, and she twirled my tail so that I could feel it moving.
While we talked I asked her what she was doing. She explained that she was in a new lab now, not as nice as the old one, but actually better equipped. Her new job consisted of basic internet searches. Nothing really challenging, but they kept her at it. We both agreed that her new employers were probably testing her.
We continued this way for two months. My hair regrew over my shaved head - Rebecca trimmed it as required. She was gradually given more and more responsibilities, but still nothing more than research. Her latest task was research into drugs, particularly mind-dulling drugs. They didn't tell her why, and she was afraid to ask. Meanwhile I kept improving. Eventually I could move my legs and arms at will, and could even hit the odd fly when I tried with my tail. My speech kept improving, and gradually my voice began to sound like it use to. My hands were still a problem - they could sometimes grasp things, or make a fist, but more often couldn't. We had been working with my fingers for a while, and we could both see the control coming.
Over this time we began to grow close. I had nobody else to talk to. While she worked with me we would talk. She would describe her day and her frustrations. I would listen and nod, and eventually, when she completely lost control, I would hold her while she sobbed. Often in the morning when I remembered my father, it was her who would hold me. But, as time passed, I forced my sorrows behind me. For both of us I would have to be strong.
Another problem was the maintenance of my new body, particularly my hooves. Rebecca and I discussed the problem and decided to do it ourselves. We didn't want to chance anybody else knowing. Rebecca carefully trimmed my hooves as required. Fortunately we both had some experience due to our ownership of horses, so we managed.
Then it was time to learn to walk.
Knowing how a horse walks is much different from walking as a horse. For the last week I had been practicing moving each of my legs separately in the correct fashion. I could even co-ordinate my movements to lay down, or stand up. But walking was very tricky - I had to learn to co-ordinate my legs appropriately to my movement. The first night she led me out of my stall, I fell onto my horses chest as my forelegs tangled themselves up. She waited while I hoisted myself up, and then helped me to move one foreleg forward, and then the opposite hind leg. Unfortunately, for a horse, walking involves each leg moving separately in a four beat motion - each leg lifts up and hits the ground at its own time. Fortunately we both knew the pattern.
Unfortunately my body didn't.
For the next six hours, she helped me move each leg at its appropriate time and I slowly moved around the barn. The first night I covered fifteen feet. The second night sixty. By the third night, she was using a crop to lightly tap the hip of the appropriate leg. By the fourth night I could actually walk on my own.
It wasn't pretty, but I could finally walk.
During all this, my replacement was making his own progress. Rebecca brought in a radio and we listened to it while we worked in the evenings. The imposter was gradually taking control. I listened to reports of my fathers funeral, but held back tears - they would have to wait. We listened to the imposter speaking. His claim was that he had been wounded in the explosion at the institute, and was still healing. He could walk, and talk, and carry things with ease. That just increased the pressure on us.
Once I could walk, my days and nights changed. Neither Rebecca nor I were worrying about full control - we just wanted enough so that I could walk, speak, and write on my own. While I walked around the barn, I used hand exercisers to practice my grip. I kept dropping them, but picking them up was part of the practice. I even mastered bowel control and used one stall as my washroom. That was achieved even before I could easily put down and pick up a pencil.
Gradually, I was gaining mastery.
One night we stayed up late talking as she brushed me. Rebecca had been brushing me for a while before she finally spoke.
"They gave me some different assignments today."
The brushing preoccupied me so I just mumbled an acknowledgement.
"They got me working on the effects of the mind numbing drugs on specific DNA combinations."
That brought me awake. I leaned away from the brushing so I could concentrate, and turned to look down at her. "What kind of DNA?"
"Its at least partially human. There is something else naggingly familiar about it though."
I remembered my father's beliefs about aquatic slaves. "Some kind of fish maybe?"
"No.", she paused, thinking. Then she snapped her fingers and looked straight at me. "Dolphins!"
"You're saying its some kind of combination of dolphin and human DNA?"
"That's my best guess."
I slowly lay down, waiting while she moved to make room.
"That means something to you?"
I sighed. "Before the transplant, my father was looking into the company that supplies silicates for the new technological revolution."
She just looked puzzled.
"Those materials are mined from the ocean floor. My father thought that the mining might be done by humans transplanted into some kind of aquatic form."
"You're kidding. Aren't you."
I told her what my father had told me about his beliefs. Of his belief in the aquatic slaves.
"The mining. The mind numbing drugs. It all adds up."
I sighed. "Yes."
"How can people be so evil? They could probably have gotten volunteers for the right payment."
"But that would have cut into their profits."
"And that woman who took your place. Part of the same group?"
"It fits. They went after me to get my father. To eliminate a threat to their empire."
"And to get more money."
"They probably thought of that to."
"And now I'm helping them to enslave others. To keep others in chains."
I leaned over and held her. I could feel her shaking in my grasp. I leaned over and whispered to her, "We will stop them. We will prove who I am and bring them out into the open. Then we'll go after their companies, and free their slaves."
She leaned into my grasp, her curly hair tickling my human chest. I could smell her scent, I could even smell what I guessed was her loneliness. I held her for most of the night as she calmed down. As she relaxed her scent changed. The loneliness went away and it became warmer. It made me eager to do more, but I refused. When the light of dawn began to shine through the windows, she finally, quietly, kissed me and went into the house. She called in sick and slept through the morning. We worked all that afternoon and evening.
Each day after that I could feel the clock ticking, I could feel the risk of premature discovery weighing down. I began to sleep less and less, forcing myself to practice making fists day and night. Eventually, Rebecca forced me to sleep as I was losing all control, but even then I felt the sleep was wasting time. Gradually, though, my grip improved. Gradually I began to write, and eventually could even write my own name. At first it looked like a child's scrawl, but gradually my signature came back.
I wondered if my imposter had mastered it - probably not. Good. Another way to prove who I was.
Finally, after five months, both Rebecca and I agreed that I was ready. I was eager, but she made me sleep. The next morning she helped me get dressed - we had modified a shirt, suit and tie to fit over my human half. It had rained overnight, and the water was still dripping off the barn roof - I hoped it wouldn't start again. We brought an umbrella just in case. Then Rebecca backed up a horse trailer and I carefully walked aboard it - I could walk easily, but only slowly. She hooked up the back and drove into Toronto, to the TD Centre. We stopped, and she opened up the trailer and helped me back out.
I looked around and sniffed the air. I had suspected my nose was definitely better than it use to be, but now I knew. I could smell the metal and oil in the water vapour exhaust. I could smell the people, their sweat, their fear. I looked around to see what kind of reaction I was generating.
The reaction was more than the doctor and I had hoped.
As we walked along the sidewalk to the TD Centre entrance, I could first hear the clopping of my hooves, but then as cars honked and screeched to a halt, the sound was lost. The sidewalk in front of us cleared and people just stared. I stopped, overcome by the extent of the reaction, but Rebecca just grasped my hand, squeezed, and pulled me forward. I knew I was nervous, and I think I scented her nervousness too. I noticed some cameras clicking, and a number of persons with cell phones. I smiled. This was what we wanted - so much publicity that it wouldn't be possible to kill us. We reached the TD Centre and I carefully made my way up the stairs. By this time the cars had all stopped and I could clearly hear my hooves clicking against the stone.
We crossed the lobby in complete silence, except for the clicking of my hooves on the floor. The security guard just stared at us as we walked by. Then we reached the entrance to the bank - I ignored the sign asking to please use the revolving door and used the normal door. The bank was almost empty and the one person waiting quickly got out of the way as we approached the counter. Rebecca stayed behind as I went to the teller.
I looked down at her, and she looked up at me. And I waited. She just stared. I started tapping my fingers on the counter. About two minutes went by. Finally I spoke.
"I would like to clarify my accounts please."
The teller continued to stare.
"Can you help, or should I go and see the manager?"
The teller continued to stare.
I sighed through my neck slits. "Can you point out where the manager's office is?"
The teller continued to stare.
This was getting ridiculous. "Are you going to do anything? Or would you like me to complain to your manager?"
At that she fled. I waited, hopefully she was going after her manager. And she was. Less than a minute later an older woman, about 50, trim and neatly dressed came up.
"May I help you?", she asked.
"Yes. I would like to clarify my accounts."
She looked at me. "What is the account number, and whose name is it under?"
I rattled off the account number for the private account my father and I shared. Had shared. She started entering the information. "The name is Robert Wang, Jr."
She stopped and looked at me. "Okay.", she said. I could hear the doubt in her voice.
"I take it you would like proof?" She nodded. "I have my signature, or we can check fingerprints and retina in you office. You do have the equipment?"
She paused. "Of course I do. If you would follow me, we can get this farce cleared away."
She walked towards the end of the counter and I followed. She didn't believe me. "Yes, we shall.", I said
She stopped, and turned to stare. Finally she shook her head, turned and made her way to her office. I followed.
Just before we entered, she turned back to me again. "You don't have any, ah, control problems?", she asked, pointing to my horse half.
"Any mess, you'll pay for."
I followed her to her desk and waited while the retina scan equipment arose out of her desk top. It had been well hidden by the oak finish.
"Now, Mr Wang, we shall finish this farce."
I leaned down to look into the scanner and noticed her pushing a button under the lip of her desk. Probably a silent alarm. Well this is what I had expected, and the sooner the police came, the safer I would be. I waited until the scanner flashed, and beeped, then I leaned back up. And waited for her response.
"Ok, Mr Wang,", sarcasm had finally started to creep into her voice, "we'll see who you really are."
I waited while she looked at the results. And watched her jaw drop open. After a moment she composed herself and turned back to me.
"Whoever the hell you are, this fakery won't work."
I just looked at her.
"I've already summoned the police. They'll take you away and put you in jail."
That stopped her tirade for a moment. Then she continued. "I'll have to let the real Mr Wang know."
"Of course I want you to tell the imposter. I want to get this out into the open and get him in prison as soon as possible."
My composure must have been throwing her off. It was a moment before she could speak. "Well lets check your signature. Lets see how good you really are."
She handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I signed my name and handed it back to her. She called up the signature on record and compared the two.
Her eyes lit up. "It doesn't match at all."
"Try the records from six months ago. Before my transplant."
She nodded, and smiled. "Sure, why not. It won't match either."
I waited while she started calling up the records. There was a knock on the door. I twisted around to see that it was a group of four Metro Police. They just stared at me. The sergeant was speaking into his radio.
"I believe you're supposed to take me away?"
Behind me, the manager gasped. I turned back to look at her.
I could barely hear her whisper.
One of the policeman cleared his throat. I turned my whole body around.
"Did you call us ma'am?" There was no answer. "Ma'am?"
From behind me I heard the manager, "This ", she paused for a second, "man has come in claiming to be someone else. Would you please arrest him."
"For what ma'am?"
"For forgery of records, for fake eyes, for a public disturbance...I don't know. Just get it out of here!"
I twisted my torso to face her. "Don't worry. This is what I expected."
"Sir?", one of the policeman asked. "Would you come with us."
I could hear the rest of them muttering. I twisted back. "Lead on please."
I followed the policeman out into the foyer. By this time some reporters and their crews had made it to the bank. They pushed past the police and started shoving microphones at me. I looked around and saw Rebecca calling our lawyer as planned. Good. Now it was time for the questions.
"Are you really a centaur?"
I sighed. "By most definitions yes."
"Why have you finally revealed yourself? Where has your race been hiding?"
"There is no race, there is no hiding." The police wanted to get going but I had to get my story out. "My name is Robert Wang Jr, and this body was grown in a vat. My brain was transplanted into it."
"How can you be Robert Wang?"
"Because an imposter stole my body and had her brain transplanted into it and took my place. They also tried to kill me." The reporters were starting to shout other questions, but I shouted out "QUIET!"
Complete silence followed. Even I was shocked at my volume. It must have been the larger lung volume.
"This person's associates bombed the Queen St. Research Institute that my father owned where the operation was performed. They used that as an excuse to slip my imposter in."
The reporters began to recover their composure. "If they tried to kill you, and they blew up everybody else, how come you're still here."
"I would rather not comment on that at this time."
The police sergeant grabbed my arm and began to pull me towards the exit.
"What are your plans now?"
"I plan to prove my identity in court, and have the imposter prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The rest of the police began clearing a path, and I let the sergeant lead me off. Over the cacophony I called out, at a lower volume, "I am going willingly, to begin the legal process. I will answer no more questions at this time."
I followed the police out. The sergeant let go and just led once he saw that I was following. I leaned over and asked him, "Do you have appropriate transport?"
He stopped and turned, "Yes, I called for it when I saw you."
He shook his head, and then we proceeded out of the building to the street. There was indeed another horse trailer parked there. There were even some riot police on horses keeping the space around it clear. I waited until they lowered the ramp and I walked in. I twisted my waist and watched the ramp being shut behind me. The bang of the ramp against the trailer was loud. The police then walked away, and a few minutes later the trailer began to move. I turned back to the front and looked out as we traveled.
Police on motorcycles cleared a path for us and it didn't take long to arrive at the new Don Jail. There, I was let out of the trailer and into the jail. I was fingerprinted and retina scanned - I could hear whispering behind me as the officers realized that the information supported my claim. . My watch and clothing was taken and they gave me a prison gown. I only used the shirt. Finally I was led down into a cell. I had to stop at the staircase and proceed slowly - the officer with me was patient. Finally I reached my cell.
I looked inside. It was standard - a wash basin and toilet and a bed.
"Excuse me?" The officer turned and looked. "I don't need the bed. I sleep standing up."
The officer nodded.
"Also, I will have problems with the toilet - there's no easy way I can, well, aim properly."
The officer just looked at me.
"You might want to put some straw around it. Otherwise it might get messy."
"I'll see what I can do."
The officer held the door open as I walked in, the sound of my hooves echoing in the room. Behind me, the cell door slammed shirt. I stopped and heard the clicking of the lock. Now I had to wait for the lawyer. I started pacing around the room, my hooves loud in the silence.
"Be quiet!", I heard another prisoner shout out.
I waited in the cell for hours, pacing back and forth and ignoring the other prisoners. There was no call. Something was wrong - Rebecca has had lots of time. What is the delay?
The odd thing was that I had begun to miss her. Not because of the calls I expected, but because I had grown use to her presence with me each night. I missed her comfort.
Finally an officer came down with a cellular. "There's a call for you.", he handed me the phone.
"Robert, its Rebecca."
"What happened to the lawyer?"
"He has never had any dealings with you."
"I called and eventually got through. He stated that you had never gone to see him. That he knew nothing about any kind of transplant into a centaur and that we were completely insane. Then he hung up."
I didn't know what to say. I was stuck in jail, and now things were starting to go wrong.
"I've contacted my family lawyer and arranged for us to meet with you. We should be down there within the hour."
Why did my lawyer not remember anything?
"Robert? Are you still there?"
"What?... Oh yes. You were saying?"
"I've contacted my family lawyer. We'll be down within an hour."
Then it hit me. "He's the one who let my imposter know when to strike!"
"It all makes sense. We talk to the lawyer and keep him informed. He is contacted and bribed and lets them know when to hit. Then he ignores us, probably having destroyed all the proof we had left him."
"No, my lawyer. Bring your lawyer so we can meet and see what we can do."
She paused. "Ok. We should be there within the hour."
I returned the cellular. So now I knew where the information had been leaked. Unfortunately, almost all the documentation we had was also lost and destroyed. Damn. Now we had to start over. I needed records. I needed scans. I started pacing again as the officer closed the cell door. Hopefully Rebecca would get here soon.
I was dragged out of my thoughts when I heard the cell door opening. It was another police officer.
"Would you please come with me? Your lawyer is waiting."
Finally. I followed him down the corridor and up the stairs. I could see the other prisoners staring at me. The officer led me into a large room where Rebecca and another man were standing. He closed the door behind me.
"Mr. Wang?", the man asked.
Ah, the conventions of society. How many centaurs could there be? "At your service. And you are?"
"Mr. .Harold Calow. Dr Walter contacted me and gave me a brief description of your situation." He motioned towards a chair. "Would you like to take a...". Then he looked at me.
"Standing is now much more natural for me than sitting. You and Dr Walter can take seats if you wish."
Mr. Calow opened a briefcase and brought out some papers and a voice recorder. "Now, as I understand it, you are the actual Robert Wang Jr. You had Dr Walter here create a new body for you. Then, immediately after having your brain transplanted a woman came in, tried to kill you, and had her brain transplanted into your body."
"Later the facility and the rest of the staff were killed, and the lawyer you had hired denied you ever had. Now you want your identity back."
"Yes." I stared at him. "How do I know that you will not accept a bribe as well?" Rebecca looked shocked, but I had to know now.
Mr Calow didn't even blink. "Unlike your impression of most lawyers, not that I can blame you given what has happened, I am honest. I have served Dr Walter's family for over thirty years. I have my pride in my profession and my honesty. I will not leave you for any reason, other your own request."
He stared at me, daring me to doubt him. I stared back. Finally I blinked and turned away.
"Fine. I'll give you the benefit of my trust. Now, how shall we proceed?"
"Dr Walter informed me that it is your intention to prove your identity in court."
"Yes. We had records and documentation, and biological evidence." I continued bitterly. "Until money wiped them out."
"What kind of records?"
"Documentation of the procedure and plans. Legal documents in my name stating my intent. Various scans and samples to document the transplant plans. We also have some physical documentation stored at a government office."
"That's good, but its unfortunate that the rest is gone. I've talked to the courts and your case will begin in just under six months. What kind of biological proof can we offer that we can get in that time."
Rebecca answered. "Robert and I have discussed this. The standard physical identifications - retina, fingerprints, are part of his genetics. We still have those, but they will probably dismiss them as simple properties of his DNA. His signature is still unique, as are the fine details of his brain waves, which we also still have. Additionally the DNA of his body has some of his original DNA code within it, and his brain has all of his original DNA. Unfortunately the existence of the body DNA is obvious from matching appearance for his old body."
"How do we get these," Mr Calow asked.
"Most of it is simple.", Rebecca answered. "The equipment for fingerprints, retina, and signature can be rented and easily used. For the brain DNA we will need some kind of laboratory. The brain DNA can be retrieved by some nanites, and the brain wave scans can be retrieved from the government."
Mr. Calow responded. "We should have no problems getting those. There are probably hundreds of doctors just waiting to get a look at you. As for you, Dr. Walter, you should probably ask for protective custody just to be on the safe side."
For the next six months we got the information and worked on the case. Mr. Calow was correct, there was no shortage of doctors, and we were able to get all the tests made, examined, sealed, and verified at the University of Toronto. The doctors were nice, but the continuing tests got on my nerves. They always wanted more blood, more hair, more skin. Fortunately I now had lots of each.
Rebecca and I also grew closer. Our nightly meetings went from simple therapy to companionship. We would talk about our lives, and our fears. We even began to talk about ourselves. It came to a head one night as she was, as usual, brushing me.
"What do you think will happen if you prove who you really are?", she asked.
"When I prove it. I'll take back my wealth. Then I'll hire detectives and ferret out the truth. When the truth is revealed, then justice will be done."
"You really believe that right will always prevail?"
I looked at her and sighed. "No. I learned that early in business. Lying was always better than the truth. Its one of the reasons why my father was always better at it than I was."
She shook her head. "Why has the world come to this? Once there was righteousness, now there is simply power."
I turned to her and pulled her towards me. She dropped her brush. "It has never been that way. It has always been might and fear. The Athenian Empire was destroyed by the fears of the mob. The Roman Empire was formed by the desire for power of the few. The crusades changed from a holy war to a simple quest for land and power by landless nobles."
"What about the stories? What about chivalry?"
"When you dig into the truth, only a very few ever stayed true. The rest were corrupted, or explained away their real goals. The clothing of power has changed, but the raw desire for it never has."
"Why is that? I'm perfectly happy where I am. The only thing I could possibly envy is you."
"You. You had a dream and you made it come true. You made it come true without forcing others into poverty. Your father was like that too. Its one of the reasons I agreed to work for him."
"Not because he bought your freedom?"
"That made me notice him. But I looked into him. In business he's ruthless to his competitors, but never to his employees. When he bought a company, he never instituted mass layoffs. Usually he gave raises, or improved the working environment."
"I know. Its one of the things that made me love him, even when I hated him."
"I see the same thing in you."
I just stared at her.
"You could have raged against fate. You could have abandoned this life and fled and hid. But you have always remained confident. You have your goals and have never wavered. You've always depended upon the law to fix your problem."
I didn't know what to say. All I could hear in my mind was her voice. All I could scent was her warmth.
"Some nights I wish that I could be like you."
I leaned my human body back, away from her. I could feel my face starting to burn from embarrassment. But I also felt an urgency in my hind quarters. Something I hadn't felt in my new body before, but recognized from memories from my human body. I was becoming aroused.
"I think I even loved you.", she continued.
I struggled for control over my new body. My arousal felt so distant, and so much greater than it had when I was human. I forced myself to ignore it. "How can you love me? I'm not even human any more."
"You're more human than almost any other human I have ever met. You're more human in that you care." She leaned over and wrapped her arms around my human half and kissed me. This time on my lips.
I didn't know what to say. Even if I had known, I couldn't have said it. But then, after a moment, she released me and walked back to the apartment that the police had provided. I just lay there, slowly cooling down. Half of me wanted her to come back, but I forced that half down. I had to regain my life. I had to prove who I really was.
Neither Rebecca nor I mentioned that night while we continued preparing for the trial. We dealt with each other as we needed to. She would still brush me, but we would rarely talk. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't think of what to say.
We also followed the news. After an initial denial, my imposter faded from sight leading to various rumours. I stayed more in the public eye but said little other than that the truth would come out in court. Of course, the tabloids had their own rumours about me. These ranged from shades of the truth, to a secret centaur civilization, to mass hypnosis and alien shape changers. One even called me the Christ, another responded by calling me the Anti-Christ.
Finally, the case came to court.
The opening statements were simple and expected. We stated that we would prove that I was the actual Robert Wang Jr., specifically in brain which was what really mattered, and prove that my body had been stolen. They stated that we were crazy, or deluded, or planning some criminal act, and that it was the jury's duty to prevent it. After all - wasn't it patently obvious that their client was the real Robert Wang Jr. - the body, the eyes, the voice, and all the other physical characteristics?
The first thing we stated was that the change had been planned and developed. We had managed to dig up some other documentation to prove it and the defense did not deny it. They claimed that the transplant never occurred due to the accident. They also stated that it was unfortunate that all the on-site records were destroyed by the terrorist bomb otherwise they would have proof that the transplant never occurred. We stated that the records would have shown that the transplant did occur.
Then we started bringing out the doctors and scientists who had tested me. We made sure they clarified that all the physical attributes meant nothing if you can duplicate the DNA underlying them. And they clearly stated that the brain remained the same - it, and its DNA, would be unchanged. They asked if any body could be grown to any appearance - even to make a duplicate of an existing person down to the genetic level, including all kinds of identifying marks. This just reinforced our earlier questions. Of course both sides knew this to be true but we all had to make sure that the jury did.
Then we started the real case. The first item we brought up was DNA matching. Of course they objected and stated that it had already been established that any kind of DNA identification was useless. We then stated that the samples we had were taken from my brain, and, as had earlier been established, the brain was separate from the transplanted body. The DNA matched. They refused to supply such DNA samples, but did cross-examine and prove that a brain could be grown with the correct DNA pattern and then taught mannerisms, speech, memories, etc. We made sure it was known what a mammoth undertaking this would be, but had to admit that it was possible.
Next we brought out signature comparisons. My signature matched my recorded signature for before the accident. My imposter's did not. They brought in experts to testify that a signature can change for various reasons, and as their final clincher brought in an expert forger who duplicate both versions of my signature. We had expected this so were not worried.
As our final physical evidence we brought out the meat of our proof - brain wave patterns. We used an expert witness, Dr Groff who was the head of neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Although the dominant waves - alpha, beta, etc. are cyclic and common, minor variations in these waves can be detected and mapped. Certain activities, such as awakening, sleeping, speaking, reading, have consistent fine detail that is unique to an individual. These fine details in my brain waves matched records taken before the transplant and the explosion at the research institute. Their cross examination brought out two things - that we don't know enough to be certain that these brain waves cannot be duplicated, and that a shock - such as an explosion or accident - has been known the change these patterns. We made sure that Dr Groff mentioned that nobody had ever measured a change as extreme as they were claiming.
Our final bit of evidence was my knowledge of various account numbers and codes. These had been recorded and passed to one of my father's, well now my imposters, accountants, who did verify the various account numbers, codes, etc. Of course they brought out records of trials that showed such information could be stolen or acquired by other methods.
That was the first week. At the beginning of the second week we called Dr Walter up to the stand. The questions we had for her were not scientific, but to describe what had happened during the transplant. She described it much as she had described it to me. This included my imposter's entrance, my being shot, the operation and transplant of the imposter's brain into my old body. Then it was the defense's turn.
"Dr Walter, you state that my client", he pointed to the imposter, "broke in, shot the centaur, and then forced you at gun point to place 'her' brain into the centaur's old body."
"Yes. I was forced to transplant her brain into the empty body of Robert Wang Jr."
"You also stated that she had three guards with her. Where are these guards?"
"I don't know."
We hadn't been able to find any trace of them. We weren't sure if they had been killed, or secreted away somewhere.
My imposter's lawyer continued, "You're sure they were there?"
"If this person did come in, and did shoot your centaur, why is the centaur still alive?"
"I agreed to work with her to save him. I hoped, and was successful, in distracting her and her guards until we could secret Robert out to a safe place for recovery."
"Objection. Nobody has proved that the centaur is Robert yet.", interjected their lawyer.
Their lawyer continued, "So you agreed to work with her and betray the centaur, whom you claim was your employer, in order to save the centaur."
"In other words, you lied?"
"It was to save him!"
The judge interjected, "Please answer the question."
"Did you lie to this supposed intruder."
"Then what happened?"
"The others as the institute helped me get", she paused, "the centaur to my farm. The next day, as I was returning to work, I was delayed and the institute was destroyed along with everybody else."
"A useful delay. Why were you delayed?"
"My car was hit with another car. Red I think. Then it fled from the scene."
"Did you hire the driver to hit you to cover your tracks?"
"Did Robert hire the driver to hit you to cover your tracks?"
"I think so, I mean no..." Dr Walter paused to collect her thoughts. "I believe that the imposter who is in Robert's body hired to driver to delay me since he thought I was working for them. The centaur, whom we will prove is actually Robert Wang Jr., did not."
"So, you lied to work with Mr. Robert Wang.", he pointed behind him to the imposter, "and then secretly put a compatriot into the centaur body, tried to kill my client and have this centaur take his place for your own personal profit, and then started various plans to cover your tracks when your attempted murder failed!"
"No!", Dr Walter stood up and shouted.
"No more questions."
They certainly didn't need any more. The jury had heard a plot, and had heard the witness state she lied.
The next witness we called was the imposter, or my old body. At times it was hard to keep track. We questioned him first.
"You claim that you are Robert Wang Jr.?", Mr. Calow started.
"Yes. Isn't it obvious?" He spread his arms.
"We do not deny that the body was Robert Wang's. We simply deny that the brain ever was. How do you explain what happened?"
"We were a few days away from the actual operation. I was still in the simulation, when suddenly I fell out of it. I started to regain my senses and could smell smoke and fire. Some of the doctor's managed to help me out before the fire caused by the bomb consumed the entire building. However, I was injured by the smoke and heat, and suffered brain damage from the sudden exit from the simulation and from malfunctions in the nanites."
"Just that. A little smoke, a little shock, and your signature changes. Your brain waves change."
"We don't know that much about the way the brain works. I don't know what else to say, the evidence is in front of you."
Mr. Calow just shook his head. "Why do you think my client is doing this?"
"I have no idea. Maybe he's after my money. Maybe he's just insane. Who would want to be a centaur?"
"I was young and had a foolish dream. All it caused was death and frustration. Nothing is worth that."
"So you spent almost three years in preparation, only to suffer some smoke inhalation. Then you cancel and instantly regret it?"
"I came to my senses."
"Well then, if you are sane and happy, why won't you just let us take a small sample of your brain tissue? A little sample, the DNA matches, and this whole case goes away. Why not?"
"It would require nanites. The last time I had them, I almost died."
"From a little smoke and heat?"
"From their malfunctioning. I was paralyzed. I had to relearn my body. I had to relearn how to move."
"Just like if your brain was transplanted from another body into this one."
"I guess so."
I had an idea. We already knew that my imposter had studied all of the business information, found out all the codes and numbers, but had he done any of the personal stuff? I whispered into the microphone and through Mr. Calow's ear piece, and suggested that he should ask about my house Shadowdancer. He nodded.
"Mr. Wang. You've certainly proven over the past year that you know a lot. You know about the business, you know about the accounts, but of course you would. After all you are Robert Wang Jr."
The impostor looked a bit confused by this sudden change but just nodded.
"How is Shadowdancer doing?"
My impostor just looked blank. He glanced over at his lawyer who was just standing there.
"You don't know who Shadowdancer is?"
My impostor stood up a bit straighter. "I have no idea who you are talking about."
"Do you mean to say that you don't remember anything about your beloved Shadowdancer?"
"I don't know what you are talking about. Next you're probably going to ask your client over there", he pointed at me, "and make up some story to make me look like a fake. But since there is no Shadowdancer, the truth will come out."
Mr. Calow smiled. "Yes, the truth will come out."
"No more questions."
The defense lawyer stood up and began questioning.
"Mr. Wang, why are you so afraid of the nanites? The prosecution is right - a simple test and this whole trial would be over."
"I almost died. I faced my own mortality. I worked for six months to regain my movement. Would you trust a technology that almost killed you again?"
"Of course not."
The rest of his questions to my imposter established background knowledge. Family, accounts, records, personal information that could be verified. My imposter never missed an answer. But then he had a year in my place to make sure he was prepared.
The trial adjourned until the next day.
Finally it was my turn on the stand. I was sworn in, and asked to be seated. They had already removed the chair since it wouldn't serve much purpose. I sat down by bending my hind legs and sitting like a dog - it was the best we could come up with. I had to lean my chest forward all the time to not lean backward, and it was extremely uncomfortable, but I could manage.
Mr. Calow's questions were brief. Why did I change? Because I had a dream and wanted to create something of my own, and not be remembered always as the son of my father. What did I remember? I remembered the woman's arrival, and her shooting me in the chest.
Then he started with Shadowdancer.
"Sir. Do you know who Shadowdancer is?"
"He is my horse."
There was a bit of snickering at this, but Mr. Calow and I ignored it.
"Why would you need a horse."
"Because I was originally human. Then Shadowdancer was my horse. He's probably still alive since the servants will have cared for him, even if my imposter", I glared over at him, "didn't even know she existed."
"Was Shadowdancer important to you?"
"Absolutely. She was the only joy in my life. I would ride her everyday. In fact she helped me make the choice that put me into my present body."
"She suggested it?"
"Not in words, but only in her existence and the happiness she brought me."
Then it was the defense's turn.
Their lawyer walked up and began. First he went through the same business and knowledge questions he had for my imposter. I got most right. But some were wrong - they had been changed, or I had simply forgotten since it had been a year. We expected that, so all we could do was bear with it.
Then their lawyer went over to a different line of questions. "So here we have a man who decided to be a centaur. What kind of man would do that? What kind of man would give up his humanity.
I could see Mr. Calow standing up to object, but the lawyer stopped and continued on another tact.
"You state that you are Robert Wang Jr. That the transplant was successful. And that someone else, in fact a woman, stole your body and stole your identity."
"Why would somebody go through what you did. One has to ask what goal could be worth it. The only one I could think of is to steal a man's identity. Money would certainly make it worth while, wouldn't it?"
"No. I had more money then I could ever spend. Why would I need to do that kind of thing?"
"If you were Robert Wang Jr. as you claim."
"True. But, if it was simply a plot to replace him", I pointed to the imposter in my body, "and I had access to his DNA to grow the brain properly, then why would I not just grow a body identical to his?"
The lawyer looked confused by this.
"I would look just like him, could quietly shoot him and step up in his place. None of this trial and publicity."
The lawyer didn't speak, but I could see him listening to someone with his ear piece. Finally he spoke, "Maybe that was your plan. You were going to be transplanted into Robert Wang Jr.'s body. But it didn't work. So you grabbed the centaur and concocted this whole scheme to replace him anyway!"
"But lets say what you claim is the truth. You must have physical evidence, but there is none. The DNA has been explained..."
"But my brain's DNA matches - how come his doesn't?", I pointed to the imposter.
"Order!", the judge called out. "The witness will restrict his responses to the questions posed to him."
Their lawyer continued, "The brain waves and signature have been explained. Here we have a centaur claiming to be a human. What proof do you have? Can you say anything that proves what you say incontrovertibly?"
I didn't know what to say. Everything we had discussed had a rebuttal. I remembered my father and his death. I remembered my mother...
"I have only dim memories of my mother, Elana Wang. All I have of her are a few of her possessions - some jewelry, a mirror, and recorded messages to me. I know where it is. Does your client?"
There was a murmur through the audience at this.
Finally their lawyer continued, "Is this more evidence you have created? More fakery to try and support your impossible fiction."
"Not fakery. Reality."
Mr. Calow spoke up, "The prosecution requests a recess to bring in this new piece of evidence."
"Objection. Such evidence has no relevance, it can too easily be faked."
"Overruled. If the evidence is faked, you can prove it in court. Is two days sufficient?"
Mr. Calow nodded.
"Court will resume in two days. Sir, you may step down from the witness stand."
I stood up and walked over to Mr. Calow and Rebecca. "We have to talk in private about this."
They nodded and we retired to Mr. Calow's offices. He performed the standard check for bugs and listening devices. When he found none we talked.
"What box?", he asked.
"After my father agreed to my transplant, he gave me some items from my mother. I never knew her, but she had kept them for me. There was some jewelry, a mirror, some personal letters to me, and a number of videos. They will only contain my fingerprints, along with my father's and my mother's. She died almost thirty years ago - there is no way they could be faked. We get the box, have James, the chief servant at home who saw it as a witness, verify the fingerprints, and we're all set."
The next day was busy. We contacted police and went with them to where the safety deposit box was stored. We made sure that only they handled it. We all returned to the police station where I used my thumbprint to open it. Then we waited while the police verified and documented the contents, and whose fingerprints were on them. Finally we had everything ready for court tomorrow. We left one copy of the documentation with the police, and kept a second with us.
The next day, on the way to court, we discovered that the box, and all of its contents had been stolen in the night. The police had no answers. Even their documentation was stolen. Its amazing what enough money applied to the right people can do. Fortunately we still had our documentation.
We returned to court and I returned to the witness box. I went through the swearing in, and the questioning continued.
"Sir", their lawyer began, "when last we talked you said you had new evidence. A box of memories of 'your' mother. Now, where is this mythical box?"
He knew it was stolen, but all I could do was answer. "It was stolen from the police."
"Stolen? From the police? Awfully convenient, wouldn't you think?"
I remembered the letters and videos from my mother that were now gone and probably destroyed. I struggled to control myself, but some tears still managed to slip out. "Convenient for you. But", I swallowed and forced myself to stay in control, "now all I had of my mother is gone."
"If it ever existed."
I didn't know what to say. I just stared at him, speechless. My last memories of my mother were gone. And to him it was just a game. Fine. "The police examined the box and made records."
"And, now you will say that they were stolen too."
"And so this mythical box and all records vanish as mysteriously they appeared."
"Fortunately I kept a copy of the police records for myself."
I smiled as I watched the lawyer's face drop.
At this point Mr. Calow stepped forward. "The prosecution would like to present its new piece of evidence. Unfortunately the actual box has been stolen by parties unknown", he turned to face the impostor, "but we have annotated documents attesting to its existence and contents." And then he handed the papers over.
I waited, quietly, while their contents were read. The description of the contents, the description and matching of the fingerprints. Just as I had said two days ago. We also had documents from the bank showing that the last time the box was accessed was two years ago. By me, Robert Wang Jr. Finally the processing was finished and it was back to questioning.
"This box", their lawyer began, "the police showed that it contained my client's and his mother's fingerprints. True?"
"Well, its obvious where the fingerprints of my client came from. Aren't your fingerprints currently the same."
"Yes. But the police opened the sealed box. They brought out the items without my touching them."
"So you did it the day before. Or even one or two years before."
"And my mother's fingerprints?"
"My client's mother. Those fingerprints could have easily been faked. Plastic. A clone."
"Then how come the bank records show that Robert Wang Jr. was the last to open the box about two years ago?"
"It could have been somebody in disguise. You can duplicate the signature, have fake fingerprints to open it, look just like my client. Who would know?"
"Then how come your client didn't even know about the box?"
"Simple. It was never his box. You created it as part of your plan. You went in disguise with a fake signature."
"But I didn't."
"Why not? You were simply prepared in case of problems. Three years ago you created this box, and all of its fakery. Just in case your plan failed and it came down to this."
"An unlikely theory. The box was mine. The items were my mother's. And now they have been stolen, simply so you and your client can keep some money."
"No. They were concocted by you to try and get my client's money." He paused. "No further questions."
Now we called our final witness. It was my old butler, James. We had found that he had been fired by my impostor. I remembered that three years ago I wouldn't even have noticed him. Now he had become my best hope. If only I had been nicer to him when I had the chance. If only my impostor hadn't thought to bribe him...
James was sworn in.
Mr. Calow started off. "Mr. Lorell, you served Mr. Robert Wang Jr. for how long?"
"I didn't really serve him directly. I worked at the main house where he usually was. I was there for 15 years but was let go a year ago."
"Where you let go before or after my clients transformation, or his", he pointed at the imposter, "accident?"
"Was a reason given?"
I smiled. He almost certainly hadn't been bribed. It seemed like they had all been let go to hide any changes, and then forgotten about until it was too late.
Mr. Calow continued, "Before you left, did you know Robert Wang Jr. very well?"
"Not really, none of us did. He was a very quiet person, particular after his father took control of the companies back."
"Did he have any interests that you noticed?"
"Every morning he would go out with his horse Shadowdancer."
"Do you think he liked his horse? Was she important to him?"
"I think so. He spent almost all his time with her. He would take her treats, and often talk to her."
"Do you think he would ever forget her?"
"I would be very surprised."
"Did Robert ever know his mother?"
"No. She died shortly after he was born."
"Did you ever know her?"
"Not really. I was hired shortly after her death."
"Do you know anything about Robert's love for her?"
"I know that he missed her and wished that he had known her. She left him some letters and videos, and some jewelry. His father finally gave it to him about three years ago. He had me arrange a safety deposit box for the stuff."
Mr. Calow brought out some pictures of the jewelry that had been in the safety deposit box. "Do these look like them?"
"After the explosion, and the partial paralysis of the person over there", he pointed again to the impostor, "did you notice any changes?"
"He never came to the main house, and he never went to see his horse. I was surprised at that."
"Did you ever meet him after the accident?"
"I never saw him. He fired the entire staff shortly after the accident."
"No further questions."
Then the lawyer for the defense came up. He looked a bit pale.
"Did Robert see Shadowdancer often in the one or two years prior to the accident?"
"No. He was almost never around. I thought it was unusual then too."
"Did he ever come around."
"A couple of times. He would come for a couple of days and spend the whole time with Shadowdancer. However, as time passed he came less and less often."
"Could he be forgetting about his horse?"
"I don't think so. Given how much he cared, I would be shocked. Given what I see, he was probably too busy."
"But you can't say for certain he wasn't losing his love for her?"
James paused, but finally answered, "I really don't think so, but I can't say that its not possible. We were never very close."
"You also testified that he had been given some things from his mother. Did you see them being given?"
"No. I was in the next room and heard him burst into tears and thank his father."
"Could that have been for something else?"
"Possibly. However the next day he had me get the safety deposit box and I watched him put the items in. Some of the notes he stopped and read before he put them down."
The impostor's lawyer frowned. "You identified the jewelry. Could you have been mistaken about any of the items you pointed out?"
"Not about the mirror."
The lawyer sighed. "No more questions."
I stared at his back. Take that.
The trial continued for another two days as the defense brought forward a number of servants to testify. For each one Mr. Calow simply asked when they started working. It was always after the accident. He then said that he had no questions, as they had never actually known the real Robert Wang Jr.
They also brought in one more witness. This was a psychologist. His statement was that extreme trauma, especially near death and possible paralysis, can cause a person to change. Often they can blot out memories of things which had caused the accident - in this case Shadowdancer. Other memories can be lost also. Mr. Calow asked how common this was He was told that it was quite rare. Often the perceived cause would be blocked out, but it was extremely rare for other memories to be hidden.
Finally the trial ended. Mr. Calow and their lawyer recapped their arguments. Mr. Calow described the points about the brain DNA match, and the defenses refusal to undergo a test, the box of possessions from Robert Wang's mother, and the love of Robert Wang for his horse Shadowdancer. The defense repeated their theories about a plot with a great deal of fore planning. They described how people can change, especially when they undergo a traumatic event.
Then the jury left and we both had to wait for their decision. I knew we had the proof we needed. The questions were, how honest were the jurors, and had my impostor gotten to any?
The jury was not out long, only three and a half hours. They handed their decision to the bailiff who read it for the judge.
I had won! The world recognized that I was me.
I leapt up and shouted for joy, my hooves slamming on the wooden floor as my fore half came back down.
Then all hell broke loose.
Bang. Somebody fired from the balcony. I heard another, smaller bang, and turned and saw the head of my imposter blown apart, blood still oozing from the neck as the body began to fall. The jurors and audience began to panic - I could smell the gunpowder from the balcony.
I let myself collapse to the floor and pulled Dr Walter down with me. The air was filled with screams and I could smell the sweat of fear and the salt of the blood from the imposter. There was another crack of a rifle. And Dr Walter's shoulder exploded over my suit and she slumped against me.
The sounds and screams faded to near silence as I held Rebecca. I could hear police forcing their way onto the balcony, but it somehow seemed distant. It seemed unimportant.
I tore off my shirt and crouched over Rebecca's bleeding body. I started wrapping my shirt around her shoulder. Her arm came off in my grip. I held the shirt against her shoulder with all my strength, praying for the bleeding to stop. I didn't want her to die. Then, in a shock, I realized that I actually did love her. That I didn't want to live without her. In the background I dimly heard other shots. In the distance I felt a shock, and then just minor stinging on my hind legs.
But I didn't care. All that mattered was my love, slumped in my arms, her blood seeping through the cloth onto my chest.
She tried to speak, but just managed to cough. I leaned forward, holding my shirt tight against her stump, ignoring the blood seeping through onto my face. I heard her whisper, "Get them for the staff, for my friends. Get them for me. I love...".
She lost consciousness.
More shots rang out, this time from the police, and the gunman was killed. Silence filled the chamber, except for my scream of anguish as I held Rebecca tight.
The paramedics, when they finally arrived, had to force my grip loose. Slowly they pulled Rebecca away and put her on a stretcher. She was still alive, but barely. I barely heard them. I just felt her blood on my chest.
It took a few hours before calm was fully restored and the dead were counted. The impostor was dead. A number of the spectators and of the jurors were dead. Rebecca had been taken away, barely hanging onto life. I was covered in blood, some of it mine from splinters of wood and bone from a near miss on my leg. It had still opened my hind thigh to the bone. At lot was from my love. The paramedics bandaged my leg and I was helped up by the police and security that filled the court room.
I remembered my father, whom they had killed. I remembered his description of the slavery to mine the silicates. I remembered his fears of them. I remembered Rebecca's last words.
They had enslaved who knew how many. They had killed my father. They may have killed Rebecca. They had tried to kill me.
I would bring them down.