Welcome to the New Normal

Needing a Clue By Four

Sometimes exchanging information is a little hard

A Jason Duncan Story
A Cassie Sutton Story

Jason and Cassie lounged in front of the large screen, each holding a tablet. Every now and then, one of them would swipe an image from their tablet onto their shared screen. There were a half dozen minimized images on the screen; saved to return to later. The idea of a house was one thing; building the thing was another story. Deciding between one house or another, you had to make some compromises. Designing one from the ground up was a totally different adventure. Size, shape, materials, everything was an option. And the array that they were finding as they researched was mind-numbing.

Jason flicked another image up to the screen. “What do you think of recycled mixed glass counter tops? Eco-friendly, strong… unusual.”

“Oooo,” Cassie responded with delight. “I like that. Would go well with cork flooring?” She glanced at Jason and gave him a winsome “please” smile.

Jason could not resist that face. Luckily for him, he knew that Cassie would be the one responsible for the financials. He’d sign whatever he needed to; he’d pay what he could. But ultimately, she would be in charge of the finances. And that suited him fine.

“Cork and broken bottles. Are we sending any message there?’” He laughed.

A dark eyebrow raised. “Not with a broken bottle,” she answered with a smile. “Our island of tranquility. No need for rescue.” She slid another image to the main screen showing a sub flooring of pipes. “We can use the hot springs for heating. Isn’t that awesome?”

Jason smiled hopefully. He wished desperately that that was true. This planning was therapeutic. Not only were he and Cassie finally doing plain old couple things, but they were in the planning mode. Thinking about the future, made it seem like there was a future. For them, and for everyone. “It will be nice if we can figure out a means to avoid being on the grid at all. It will make getting building permits a lot easier.” Jason paused for a moment. “So.. do you see this more a mountain cabin, a rustic retreat, or a hidden sanctuary with all the comforts of home?”

Her eyes met his. “I hope to one day see it as home. Our home.” She searched his face, hers not showing the churning uncertainty that boiled inside. Cassie knew she had a poker face, but also knew that Jason could read her like a book. She fought the urge to bite her lip, instead fidgeting with the stylus.

“Well, then we need to make sure we’ve got the power to run computers, wireless, communications, etc/ Hmmm. Maybe one of those whole house computers, run all the utilities, heat, lights, etc. Maybe we can get Tyler to help us with a power source…. once he has time.” Jason didn’t want to think about what they were up against, what Tyler was working on. He snuggled up against her and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Cassie grinned and nudged him with her shoulder affectionately. “There is solar, babe,” she offered. “Big sun, not Tyler’s baby sun.” She paused, suddenly thoughtful, “But maybe. . .oh Jason, tiny fusion reactor for power?”

“Could work. They work on the Jet. Wonder if I could figure out how to reproduce one like the one we have in the V-jet.” Jason’s mind started to work it. As the Ego, Jason found his mind quite capable. He didn’t think he was Tyler smart, but his brain worked in ways it didn’t before. That thought brought to mind the unpleasant truth about Mark. He looked back at Cassie. See had the bemused look she got recently when he was in quiet contemplation. He wouldn’t keep secrets from her any more. But, he had other obligations. This was not a new conflict for him. He frequently had to withhold information about a patient from the patient’s family.

Only this time was different. “Cassie…,” he started.

“Yes?” she answered, quirking her head.

“You know I can’t talk about a patient, right?” He offered her some bait.

A puzzled frown furrowed her forehead. “What patient would I want. . .” she began and then, “oh,” and all mirth fled from her face. She was silent for a while and then she swallowed hard. “I know you can’t talk about a patient, but obviously you want to tell me something.” It had to be serious; Jason would never violate patient privilege. Her heart was racing as her stomach flipped wildly. She took a long breath and stated softly, “But we probably will all die soon. What’s the harm in telling me, right?”

Jason felt conflicted. But he wouldn’t give in that quickly. “1. We are not going to die. 2. It might make him.. the patient, unwilling to be honest. And, while I am not the Super Ego,” he looked at her to make sure she knew that, “this is important. It is so integral to who I am. It isn’t some over zealous bit of morality.” He squeezed her hand and felt his eyes glass over a bit with tears. He needed to give her something, something she could use. “We will keep working on it. This patient isn’t the most cooperative, but we won’t let him give up.”

Cassie nodded with understanding. “Don’t let him give up,” she repeated slowly, firmly. “The patient has been through a lot, is going through a lot. He is in a dark place, doesn’t seem to want to fight his way back. I’m aware that he has lost a lot and can’t seem to find his place in this world.”

Her fingers slipped into his. “I have hope and faith. And I trust you to help him find his way. But I know that there isn’t a promise of success. I love you for trying. I love you even more for caring enough for him to not tell me what’s going on. I love you most because I know you will fight for him to the very end.”

“We will.” Jason nodded. Then with emphasis, “WE… will. But I,” Again with emphasis, “I can’t really talk about it. I took an oath’ I am bound by professional ethics. I’m glad you appreciate that. If I were not under these obligations, you know… I would.” He watched her eyes.

“As if the patient were legally dead?” she stated softly, looking away. “If the doctor wasn’t a doctor at the moment he spoke . . .or typed? One wonders what the subconscious is capable of sometimes. They say poltergeists aren’t ghosts, but projections of the mind.” She looked up at him, blinking back the sheen of moisture over her eyes. “But that’s fantasy, isn’t it? I can’t ask you to break your vow.”

Jason realized immediately what Cassie was trying to do. He smiled internally. Oh, it would be nice to use the Brute as an excuse to do his dirty work, but it wasn’t that easy. “I wish I could do that Cassie. Please don’t ask me to, I don’t want the Brute to be my escape clause.” He tried a different tact. “Honestly there isn’t that much to tell. I can barely understand those scans; they are not your normal MRIs. And, I know my way around a brain scan, but these were something else. You’d need to talk to an expert if you really wanted to know.” He raised his eyebrows, glancing in the direction of the elevator that led down to the labs.

It hit her like a bolt of lightning. She stared at him and then stood abruptly. “God, Tyler hasn’t eaten. I need to go make him a sandwich.” Giving Jason a grateful smile, she ported to the labs.

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