Read Thicker Than Blood Online

Authors: Matthew Newhall

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Fiction

Thicker Than Blood

BOOK: Thicker Than Blood
12.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Thicker Than Blood
Matthew A. Newhall
Contents
COPYRIGHT

Copyright
©
2005,2006,2007 M. A. Newhall

All rights reserved.

The latest version can always be found at http://www.thickerthanbloodthebook.com This is version 0.91 of this book.

Please See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ for the full text of the license.

ISBN: 978-1435718470

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to my mom Christine, Brad and Jeannine Dillon, Brian MacEllwee, J Vallati, Rich Seckel, Joe Wood, Vinny Vallati, Pat and Jeannie Boyle, Shirley, mama Ketty, my sister Janet, Ribal, Phil and Seth from animal-57, the folks from FLAT, especially Tony Santiago, Tom Rothemel, Pete, and Lori, Everybody from LILUG, especially Matt Suricco, Jim Browne, Tim Sailer, Chris Knadle, Jason Katz, Mark Drago, Jeff Sipek, John Palmieri, and Peter, all the folks at BNL especially, Ian, James, and Akin, Michael Lee from ULS, all my great coworkers at CSHL, especially, Simon Ilyushchenko, Carlos Gomez, Derek Johnson, Bart and Janine Mallio, Myke Malave, Gerald Mccloskey, Elizabeth Cherian-Samuel, everybody from the VMC especially Bob Piacente, Lee Wilbur , Slashdot, everyone at Foresight.org and nanodot, the EFF, nerds at large, Everybody at "The Cup" coffee shop in Wantagh, Dawn Zacharakis, Wes Roepken, the guys from Korn, Hatebreed, Disturbed, Static X, and Slayer for writing great music to write to, Mayor Bloomburg, Benjimin Franklin, Linus Torvalds, Martin Luther, Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham, Buddha, and especially Shotgun Trucker, wherever you are, you saved our asses that day. Special thanks to Chris Knadle, Bobbie Peters, Simon Ilyushchenko, Giselle, and Jason Katz for their heroic editing efforts. Extra special thanks to Jeannine Dillon who is systematically agonizing over every word in the book! And to any friends, family, Linux nerds and coworkers who have either given me a place to write, given me feedback, or even just listened to my insane rants who I have forgotten, I'm not being a jerk on purpose. Just poke me in the ribs and I will include you. Seriously that's the best part about not going into print right away.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my wife Giselle Newhall. For her endless feedback, infinite patience and boundless love.

Chapter 0

Sergio Vallone stared at his reflection in the small mirror over the sink. I look terrible, he thought. His pale face was contrasted by his sunken eyes. His face was swollen from a lack of sleep. A dark shadow covered his jaw. He splashed water over his face. The muscles in his forehead and cheeks felt taut against the cool liquid. He opened the bathroom door. "Mr. Vallone?" Sergio felt his stomach wrench. He reached his hand to the wall to hold himself upright. He turned to his sister in law, Teressa. She looked horrified. Oh God this is it. She's finally gone. Sergio hadn't cried since he was a boy. Now he was crying so hard he couldn't speak. Teressa was holding him. She was wearing one of Monica's favorite perfumes. It made him cry harder. He imagined her as he had for years, on their honeymoon. She seemed so beautiful it was unreal. Teressa led him by his hand back to the gray and brown folding chairs. Sergio felt stronger after he sat down. He looked up and noticed the woman doctor had gone. She had delivered her message without saying a word. He looked at Teressa through his tears. She looked angry. "Why couldn't they save Monica?" Sergio paused, "She was so young." Teressa's fury was growing. She was scowling. "I don't know Sergio, medicine can only do so much." Her words seemed so obviously contrived. Her mind was elsewhere. He turned to her screamed, "You have to tell me why!" His voice echoed through the halls.

She stared at Sergio. Her face was cold as stone. Two male nurses jogged into to the waiting room. They looked at Teressa. She waved them off. "Sergio, the chemo, the radiation, they hurt the good cells too." Sergio reached in his jacket and pulled out a flask. Normally he tried to be more discrete, but he just didn't care right now. He felt the pain in his stomach numb from the alcohol. "What about Joe?" His Italian accent was strong. She just glared at him. Sergio stared right through her. Can't even save your own sister, some fucking doctor, he thought. I'm so alone. They sat in silence, disgusted. I just attacked the one person who had stood by through the whole ordeal. I'm awful, Sergio couldn't believe how he felt. Sergio grabbed Teressa's hand. She started to pull it away. "Teressa, I'm sorry." Tears ran down his face anew. "I will never scream like that again." She just glared at him. "I, I can't be alone. Joe's so fragile. I can't do it," Sergio stuttered. Teressa's eyes widened. She held his hand with both of hers. "Never again." Teressa looked calm and focused. "I promise." "What are you going to tell Joe?" "The truth," Sergio said. He stumbled as he got up. Teressa reached out to help him. He pulled away and wiped his eyes. He trudged toward the playroom. Sergio looked for his son in the pastel children's waiting room. He spotted him in the corner as he stepped in the doorway. The skinny sixth grader looked too old and sad for the colorful playroom. The smiling suns and happy trees painted on the walls seemed to mock his son. Joe was gently rocking back and forth in the plastic chair. He looked at his dad's face and their eyes connected. Joe stopped rocking. Sergio fell to the ground. They hugged his body as he wept. Joe and Teressa held hands.

Chapter 1

Joe Vallone would have to leave work late today. Drivers were mapping out a new crop of winter potholes on the NY streets. The Sun repair shop was busy, but Joe wouldn't rush. He resisted the pressure to keep pace with the tide of walk-in repairs. Joe's boss had asked him to stay late, rather than miss more business. Auto undercarriage had the potential to be exceptionally dangerous for Joe. An array of high power springs, shaved metal edges, high pressure seals, pry-bars, and a two ton car held over your head with a compressed fluid, could slow any mechanic who thought about it. Most of Joe's cohorts seemed careful, but not compared to Joe. One mistake could kill him. He might not survive so much as a one inch gash or bruise. Being alone in the garage was not a good idea, but Joe had some good ideas to compensate. He had made a padded sleeve to reach into hot engine compartments. He built a telescoping rod with tiny infrared, visual, and ultrasonic cameras, out of old palmtop parts and a car antenna. He even had a full robotic arm that mimicked every human joint from the shoulder down. He adapted it from an early flawed robotic prosthetic his aunt rescued from a trash heap. Often his coworkers wanted to borrow the reinforced metal plated arm when pulling a pressed harmonic dampener or stubborn brake drum. His gear did not protect him every time. About two years ago, he had folded back a thumbnail while working on The Combatant, a robot he and some friends were building for a contest show. The pain was subtle, just enough to alert him to the damage. He told his sponsor Lucy Kane about the injury and they decided to drive to the hospital just in case. His thumb had grown to the size of a golf ball by the time they got to the emergency room. The doctors there immediately began a transfusion and eventually drained a pint of blood from his swollen thumb. Joe's Aunt Teressa was there that day. She was due in surgery, so she couldn't stay long. She made some adjustments on his chart, and told him to call her. Joe remembered calling her at home the next day. "Hello." His aunt replied, "Hello Joe. How nice of you to drop by yesterday," sounding a little sarcastic. "Thank you for being there for me," Joe grumbled. "How is you thumb?" "Better." Joe lied. "Joe, you are headed for trouble. Why? You're smart. There are plenty of hobbies you can do that don't endanger your health." Any hint of sarcasm was gone. "If you want to design machines, fine. But why continue building them yourself. Your friends know how to work a wrench, don't they?" "Yes," Joe said quietly. Joe knew a few things about himself. He liked being athletic, liked building things, and when he had a good idea, he had lots of trouble expressing it. Most of the time it didn't bother him, except at times like this. Joe became flustered. "They can't do things like I can. I can't explain how things fit together, they just do." "I know I am not your mother, but if you continue to do this type of work yourself, then I see no choice," Dr. Graceland said in a condescending, prissy tone. Here comes an ultimatum, Joe thought. "We had difficulty obtaining the right blood type for you yesterday. We had to give you half plasma. If you came in for your coagulant shots every week like you are supposed to, it wouldn't have been so bad. You need to be here at the hospital, the Tuesday after next to donate blood to yourself, and every week after that for your shot. I'll be here after six." Joe breathed again. He was off the hook for now. His father and aunt bombarded him all the time with extraneous reminders of his illness. His case was pretty severe. Acne could be an all day affair. Nosebleeds were frequent and endless. Hemophilia could easily kill Joe, but he focused his attention on matters more important to men of twenty-two, as often as his health could stand it. As far as Joe was concerned, that was all anybody could ask of him. Joe thought about the extra cash overtime would make him. His mind wandered as he ran a small winch he had mounted to the transmission cross-member. Its braided steel cable was pulling a rusty mu?er horizontally toward the passenger's side of the charcoal gray car. The mu?er was held against the underside of car by a piece of heavy threaded pipe. Joe operated the winch from a remote, attached by a dangling wire that almost brushed the ground. Joe stood about three feet away, just enough to see what was happening in the dim worklight. A rusty bolt snapped. When he saw the tailpipe and mu?er give way, he reacted as fast as any human could. The mu?er swung to the side and down. The steel pipe holding the mu?er to the car was yanked in the direction of the mu?er's descent. He leaned back lifting his left foot and pivoting on his right. He felt something brush against his shop jacket. The quick action had thrown his body and leg clear of the diving pipe, but pipe caught the wire attached to the winch remote. The winch remote was yanked from Joe's hands. The sound of the remote being smashed on the ground was barely audible over the loud clang of the steel pipe. "That was close," he reverberated in the silent garage. Breathing heavily, he walked to the nearest wall switch and flicked it on. He tossed his shop jacket on the floor, pulled his shirt off and examined his bare upper body which was lean and muscular. After spending several minutes examining his arms, he determined he was not bruised or scratched. He did discover he was covered with goosebumps. People at work knew of his condition, but had no idea how severe it was. Two years had passed since he started working at this garage, and he had managed to avoid a single incident. To avoid special attention, he built his gizmos after hours. Nervous a confrontation about his unfinished work would reveal the truth, he walked to a desk in the corner of the room and scribbled a hasty note for his boss that he had a family emergency. He was done for the night, his nerves were shot. He was careful about what he said, he liked his job and a good job was hard to find. Times were tough. Joe barely remembered the roaring nineties, he was too young to appreciate the spoils of the time. He did remember his mom and dad being too busy for him with all the work they were doing. His father compared the hard times to the depression his great grandfather lived through. He called it the endless recession. He lifted the phone receiver and dialed a thirteen-digit number. He held the receiver to his ear, but the sound of the ring tone still echoed in the vacant shop.

BOOK: Thicker Than Blood
12.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Natural Causes by Palmer, Michael
A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar
Elegy for April by Benjamin Black
Peekaboo Baby by Delores Fossen
Martha in Paris by Margery Sharp
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation by Jerome Preisler