Falling Forward

Previous Chapter


Sheila stared at Evel for a few seconds. Then she laughed. “Okay, you got me for a second,” she said. “I know all about hazing rituals and I’m flattered that you want to bring me into the fold.”


“I recognize that many of you are science majors,” said the professor, “but here at Knox we strive to educate the whole person.” Although in his seventies, he held himself erect and looked at his class through thick horn-rimmed glasses. His suit was clean and pressed, but a bit out of fashion and looked a little shiny at the elbows. His gray hair was thick, long, and combed straight back. Still, he had a spark that the students had yet to discover. It was just the first class session.


Mist curled around the footings of the building, shrouding the brickwork in a layer of gray. The sun had not yet risen above the horizon but the eastern sky was glowing. Dressed in a sweatshirt, jeans, and a vest with the requisite surplus of pockets, Sheila was warm enough in the chill dawn. The other warmth she felt was nostalgia. She looked up to the bell tower,three stories above her head. She had not been in Galesburg for more than 30 years, but Old Main was still the same. Not surprising, she thought, since it was listed on the National Register. She turned to the tablet screen glowing in her hands.


“My god, I’m so sorry,” said Evel, “let me help clean that up.” He pulled a cloth handkerchief out of his breast pocket and knelt down to sop up the spilled beer, pulling his necktie out of the way as he bent down.


Sheila leaned toward the screen while Evel and Anna stood on either side of her. They were in a hospital in Galesburg, where Evel had taken over the Radiology department, repeating his earlier feat with the local police. Sheila had explained and cautioned Anna about the need for secrecy. Although confused, Anna assented.


A buzz started coming from Sheila’s pocket. They were walking out of the hospital and heading to her van. She stopped to answer while Evel and Anna continued on to the van. She saw the name come up on her screen. “Jim, why are you calling?” she answered.


“We believe that it’s a great opportunity for you,” said Carl Fredrickson. “Our firm has landed a contract to create sensors to detect airborne anthrax spores at airports, office buildings, even city streets. Your expertise can help us tune the receptors to detect anthrax and other airborne pathogens. We still have a lot of development work ahead of us.” They had just finished a sumptuous lunch and Evel was feeling stuffed and a little woozy from two martinis.


“Yes, sir,” Evel said into the phone. “It was pneumonic complications from measles. Aside from the fact that an otherwise mild viral infection became deadly, there is nothing biologically remarkable about him.” He paused and listened.



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David Potenziani

David Potenziani

Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.