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Someone was nudging her shoulder. Dimly aware that she was in a chair, in a hospital waiting room, Dacy clawed her way back up to consciousness and tried to focus her eyes, blinking sleepily.

            "Oh, Mr. Solomon," she said, rubbing sleep from her eyes, "he's in surgery. They said it would be several hours. They still don't know how bad it is -- he had severe internal injuries, they said. His ribs and spine were broken in several places, and they're not sure," her breath caught in her throat.  She managed to get past it, and continued, "if he'll live, and they are not sure if he does, if he will be paralyzed or not. Time will tell." She looked at him, eyes bright with welling tears. "But we got him here alive. Thank you for helping him."

            Solomon's face looked tired, but gave away little. His eyes looked anguished, though, Dacy thought. "I came as fast as I could. I'm sorry I wasn't there. This shouldn't have happened."

            Dacy shook her head. Guilt; she knew that feeling, first hand. "I keep trying to understand what did happen. Trick was waiting, he told me so. He'd scouted the area for traps and called for backup. He's so careful," she emphasized, "I don't know how he came to be in that explosion! Did the Circle attack him?"

            "As far as we can tell, no. Although, I think the Circle that you saw in the room had come in response to the triggering of the trap around the vase. If those heroes had arrived any later, they probably would have been all over him, finishing the job the explosion started."

            Dacy shuddered. "Who was the other person? The one your team said was dead?"

            "Well, I was hoping you could tell us. His i.d. listed him as Scott McIntyre. Does that name ring any bells?"

            Dacy frowned thoughtfully, then shook her head. "I'm thinking I've heard the name, but, I can't place him, no. Sorry."

            "It seemed vaguely familiar to me, too," Solomon said, his eyes narrowed in thought. "Maybe we will figure it out once more details are known."

            Dacy's eyes widened as she looked past Solomon's shoulder and recognized Trick's doctor, headed towards her. She stood up quickly. Marcus, noting her reaction, turned to face him, also.

            "Ms. Davis? I'm Dr. Coombs, the emergency room physician handling Mr. Dacy's case.  I understand you are waiting on news about him? Are you family?" the doctor asked.

            "No, he doesn't...he doesn't have any family. I'm his assistant. Are you finished already? That's good, right?" Dacy asked anxiously.

            "We are not finished yet, no, but we were past the critical stage, so I usually come out at this point and let the family know the situation. I know how hard this is on you," the doctor smiled sympathetically. "At this stage, I am fairly confident he will survive. He does have extensive damage to his spine, with possible nerve involvement, although I want to assure you that we've found no evidence that the cord was severed. Right now we are calling in specialists to deal with the delicate task of cleaning up and supporting the damaged spinal area as best as they can.  If there isn't extensive damage to the cord, he should walk again, although he will most likely need assistance of some sort.  We won't know the full extent of the permanent damage until after he has recovered some. And now, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to surgery. There is still quite a bit of reconstruction and repair of the internal damage yet left to do."

 

Dacy sank slowly back into her chair, digesting this information. She looked relieved, but also, thoughtful. "Well! That sounds like good news!" She looked down, worrying at a tissue with her fingers. "Mostly good. I hope it's good. He's so strong, I can't think of him any other way. I'm sure he'll recover." She rather sounded like she was trying to convince herself. Marcus sat down across from her quietly, and waited for her to work through her thoughts and emotions. She sniffed quietly. "I'll admit, I'm a bit worried, though. If he does need some sort of assistance to walk... seems like that would make his job a lot harder for him. Maybe even impossible. And what happens then?" Solomon remained silent, clearly listening to her. "I know he loves his work! He's made that pretty clear, working as either a cop or detective every minute he isn't sleeping or eating, and sometimes, even then. I wonder, what would happen if he couldn't do that anymore?" She chewed her lip thoughtfully.

           

            "Dacy! I came as soon as I could. How you holdin' up, hon?" Dacy and Solomon turned towards the speaker, a middle aged man of average height and above average girth, who was striding down the hallway towards them.

            "Brady! Oh, thank you for coming!" Dacy said, rising to meet him. She clasped his hands in greeting, but he pulled her into a hug. She gently disengaged after a moment, gave him a mollifying smile, and said, "Marcus Solomon, this is Lt. Brady Jacobsen, of the Paragon Police Department. He's Trick's boss, when Trick's on duty. I've worked with him frequently, when Trick needed information from the police department. He's always been very helpful to me." She smiled at Brady again. He beamed at her. Marcus decided he was pretty sure why Brady was so helpful. Dacy continued her introduction, "Brady, this is Marcus Solomon. Marcus is the client Trick was working for."

            "Pleased to meet you," Marcus said, shaking Brady's hand.

            "Likewise," Brady replied, although the look he gave Solomon was one of appraisal. "So, you one of them hero-types?" he said, gesturing at Solomon's outfit. "Little old for that, aren't you?"

            Dacy closed her eyes and wished she could smack Brady up the backside of his head. Or stomp on a foot. Pretty much anything, if it would only make him less likely to open his mouth and come out with things like that.

            Solomon's smile gave nothing away. He didn't look even mildly annoyed. "I require my suit for movement, Lieutenant. I'm a parapalegic. I control my body through force field technology, developed by my own company. The armor is, I'll admit, for use when I'm feeling more adventurous, for my protection. I have another suit that is more easily hidden, for every day type clothes." He met Brady's gaze evenly, quite unperturbed.

            Brady shuffled a bit uncomfortably, and then said, with a forced heartiness, "Great! Well, that's great. Just great. Good for you." His eyes shifted and landed on Dacy with an almost joyous pounce as he remembered there was another reason for his visit. "How's Trick? I heard it was bad."

            Dacy's dark brown eyes clouded up again. "He is. Although, the doctor thinks he will live, which is good...but they aren't so sure about how well he will walk again. It's too early to tell, they say."

            "Ah, well, I'm sure it will be fine. He's a tough old dog, he'll be back in fighting form before you know it," Brady proclaimed expansively.

            "I hope so, Brady, I sure hope so."

            "Hey," he asked, "Where is he, anyway? I wanted to tell him everyone's pulling for him."

            "He's still in surgery, and then he'll be in recovery. He may not even wake up for a while, I don't know," Dacy replied.

            "Oh." Brady considered this a moment. "Well, I'm afraid I can't hang around here. I'll come back later, when he's awake. Can you give me a call when that happens?" Dacy nodded. Brady paused for a second, apparently realizing that she was still worried. "He'll pull through, don't fret.  Besides, sweetheart, the boys in blue take care of their own. If he's not walking so good, he'll still have a job with us. We can put him at a nice, safe desk. He's probably due for a promotion, anyway." He patted her shoulder clumsily. "Don't worry your pretty little head about it." He gave her what looked like an attempt at a confident nod, and turned and walked back the way he had come.

 

            "But will putting him at a desk really be helping him, I wonder," Dacy said softly to herself, as she watched Brady's retreating form. Marcus glanced at her, but said nothing.

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Trick became aware of small noises around him: the beep of some sort of equipment, the sounds of someone moving nearby. He felt someone put something around his arm. He struggled to surface, to open his eyes. It seemed like such an effort. There were some small, quick whooshes, and the band on his arm began to tighten. It was just enough of a connection to help bring him the rest of the way to consciousness. He opened his eyes, and noticed a nurse taking his blood pressure. She noticed his eyes flutter open, and smiled at him.

            "Oh! You're finally awake. I'll get the doctor," she said, and she gathered together her equipment and smiled reassuringly at him once again as she walked out the door. Trick looked around, trying to piece together where he was and what had happened to him. His body felt strange. It didn't exactly hurt, but it felt as though it was about to. He realized that he couldn't move, and that he was in a hospital. A moment of panic ensued before he realized that his body was in a brace of some sort that prevented it from moving. That was followed by the pain he'd felt lurking, aroused from its sleep by his attempts at movement. Okay, he'd just learned not to do that for a while. He forced himself to relax, as his mind whirled in an effort to make sense of his situation.

 

He was relieved as he realized immediately, he did remember what had put him here. He was lucky he wasn't dead. Which reminded him, there had been someone else involved. He also had no idea what had happened after the blast. He had to find out! He strained to turn his head, to find the call button for the nurse, and for the first time, noticed Dacy, on the far side of the bed. She was asleep in a chair. He looked at her in disbelief for a moment; she must have been here for a long time. She looked tired, and her normally beautifully kept long brown hair was dishevelled. It made her look even younger, somehow, and more vulnerable. No less beautiful. He smiled to himself for a moment. He was delighted she was a looker. Made his line of work so much easier. She could just bat her eyes, and men bent over backwards to give her what she wanted, which was usually, information for him. She'd even turned those eyes on him, a few times. Not that that boat was gonna sail, oh no. He'd decided that maybe she'd get the hint if he just played it cool. He wasn't interested. She was practically a kid, and his employee, for one thing. And there was no room in his life for complications like relationships, for another. He'd learned the hard way, women just didn't appreciate playing second to a job as demanding as his was. And he loved being a cop, and being a detective. He could never give that up. No, he knew dames: they'd tell you they loved you, act like they understood, and then they started trying to change you. No thanks.

 

A noise at the door made him turn to look, as the nurse came back into the room, followed by dark haired woman in a white lab coat.

            "Ah, good, Mr. Dacy, I'm glad to see you awake. I'm Dr. Rutherford, your neurologist," the woman said. "Do you know where you are?"

            Trick nodded slightly."I think I remember most of what happened. Well, up to the point where it all went black," he replied wryly.

            "Good, that is good!" she said, while holding open first one of his eyes and then the other, flicking a small flashlight light on and off. Dacy stirred, catching his attention momentarily. "You were hurt very badly, Mr. Dacy. You only lived because you were brought to the hospital in time. You had multiple internal injuries, and your back and ribs were broken in many places. We used wire braces that were surgically implanted to support the breaks, where we could, but there were many places where the bones were too shattered or the location of the break made it impossible to brace it. Your spinal cord appeared largely intact, but, it is hard to know these things for sure until the patient is awake and able to provide responses. I would like to do some of these tests now, please."  Dacy sat up, clearly awake, now. Her eyes widened with surprise as she registered the fact that he was conscious, and her face lit up with joy. She opened her mouth to speak, realized the doctor was in the room and speaking, and promptly shut it again. The nurse busied herself with checking equipment and supplies in the room.

            Trick's attention returned to the doctor. "Certainly," he told her. He was more than a little worried by the reference to damage to his back. Was that why he felt so funny? The description of his injuries certainly explained the pain. He watched the doctor anxiously as she began to poke, prod, and ask him for responses to what she was doing.  His brow furrowed as he realized he couldn't always feel what she was doing, and he didn't think he'd actually moved his toes when she asked him to. Trick tried to focus on what the doctor was doing and saying, and not let as yet unrealized fears take hold of him. He tried hard not to even think that he might be paralyzed. He was in a brace and traction, to prevent him from moving very much; a safeguard for further damage, and to help in healing, the doctor said. Apparently, any movement could further injure his spinal cord, because of the bone fragments that were still present. Dacy looked on, biting her lower lip every once in a while, her face full of concern.

 

The doctor finished with the tests for the moment, and paused to write something on the patient record on her clipboard. "Well! I'd say you came out of that pretty well," she smiled. "You have enough feeling that I think you've avoided paralysis. There is some motor loss as of right now, but due to edema and the trauma, that is quite normal. You may even recover it, in time, and the sensation, too."

            Trick struggled for a moment with this, trying to reconcile "came out well" with "motor loss" and "may recover" in his head. He felt like he'd been sucker punched in the gut. The room closed in on him. "Does...does that mean...Doc, tell me straight up. Will I be able to walk? Can I still do my job?" His voice cracked a bit on that last word.

            Dr. Rutherford smiled in a kind, professional way. "It's really too early to make accurate projections, Mr. Dacy. However, based on what I've seen, I have every confidence that you will walk again. However, your legs will most likely not regain the strength they once had, because of the neural damage, and may need support of some sort. As far as your job goes," she checked her clipboard, "you are a police officer? And a private investigator?" Trick nodded, his slow movement a reflection of his inner tension. "Well, are you very active in those jobs, or are they more of a desk-type situation?"

            "Active. I don't sit much." Trick's words were clipped, agonized.

            "Oh, well, no, you'll have to make some changes, I'm afraid. Even if your spine healed the best it possibly could, it will never be able to handle stresses like a physical job would put on it. It is also going to be somewhat limited in movement. Several of the vertebrae will fuse together, which is the body's way of protecting the cord, and healing the damage, but it just won't be able to move the same. It should still be quite functional," the doctor hastened to add, seeing the look on Trick's face. "You have to realize, you are really quite lucky! Not only are you alive, but it appears you will not even be paralyzed!" She studied his face. Trick turned away, feeling naked in his despair. "Well, it is a lot to absorb all at once. I'll give you some time to look at the whole situation, Mr. Dacy. I want to emphasize, though, that this is about as good of an outcome as was possible in this situation, given the amount of damage you sustained. These types of injuries...well," she shook her head, "I know you may not feel lucky. But at least you can feel." She turned and walked to the door, and paused, turning to look back at him. "One more thing. I wouldn't mention this to many patients, but there may be something else we can try that would give you a better result. Dr. Phillips, an orthopedic surgeon, and I are doing some exciting work in spinal column replacement and central nervous system regeneration. Everything is quite experimental, at this stage, but the results thus far have been very encouraging. You are young, and strong, and I think, motivated; I think you would be a wonderful candidate for the treatment. This involves surgery, and in cases such as this, involving trauma, the sooner measures are taken to mitagate the damage, the better the results can be. Would you be interested? If it's successful, it could give you back everything you've lost."

            Trick turned back to face her, hope stirring in his face. "Yes! Yes, of course I'm interested. Please, doctor, whatever it takes."

            The doctor smiled and said, "I'll see to getting things started for you right away. We'll get you some information on the possible risks and benefits, and see if it looks good to you." With that, she was gone.

            Dacy put her hand on his leg. It irritated him that he couldn't feel it very well. It also reminded him of her presence. And all the raw, unprocessed emotions he was feeling about everything suddenly became too much. He didn't want her to see him like this. He didn't want anyone to see him like this.

            "I was worried about you, Boss! It's good to see you awa..." Dacy began, rather tentatively.

            "Get out," Trick interrupted, holding on to his emotions tightly.

            "..What?" Dacy asked, confused.

            "Please. I need...Will you just. Please. Go," Trick said tightly, turning his face from her.

            "I..." bewildered, Dacy slowly stood up, withdrawing her hand. Her eyes welled with tears. "Okay, Trick, whatever you say," she said, puzzled and hurt. She backed away, then fled the room quickly.

            "You know, you treat her like that, she's not going to be your girlfriend long," the nurse said, checking his I.V. "That wasn't very nice. She's been next to your bed since you arrived in the room, all day now. From the looks of her, she didn't get much sleep since you came in last night, and I hear she was there at the scene trying to save your sorry hide, too! Least you could do is show some appreciation."

            "She's not my girlfriend," Trick said, teeth gritted, eyes glittering angrily. "And you can go, too!" He glared at her, willing her to go, before he completely lost control.

            "Touchy, touchy!" said the nurse. "Okay, I'll give you your 'space'. I hope you're in a better mood later!" She smiled at him, apparently oblivious to his desire to bodily toss her out the door. At the least.

            "Women!" Trick muttered to himself, as she exited the room. He turned his face away from the closing door, as a tear escaped down his cheek and the howling maelstrom that had struggled to get out, crashed over him and swept him away.

 

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

It had been a bad night. Followed by a worse morning. And, it looked to be quite possibly an agonizing afternoon. Trick lay in the uncomfortable hospital bed, feeling morose and guilty. A steady stream of blue uniforms from his precinct had failed to cheer him up in the least, and had in fact made him feel worse, as it only highlighted what he had lost. Adding to his misery, Dacy had not returned. Not only did he feel badly for how she must have felt when he kicked her out shortly after he woke up, but, she had been his only source of information about what had happened in the warehouse. He hated it when he didn't know what was going on. None of the personnel here knew a thing. Then, to top it all off, Dr. Rutherford had come calling. He brightened when she came in, anticipating the information she was bringing that would get him back to normal. His hope sparked, then died, as he saw her sympathetic face. His insurance wouldn't cover the treatment, she was sorry to tell him. Experimental, not necessary for his survival...she'd explained, and he was fairly sure she'd offered words of encouragement and condolence, but they had buzzed dully past his ears and escaped uncomprehended. It boiled down to, he wasn't getting the treatment, and there was no way in heaven he could afford to pay for it himself. He would no longer get to be a cop, or a detective, like he was. Oh, he'd already been reassured, he had a nice desk job waiting for him, when he was ready.

 

Yeah. When he was ready. When would that be, exactly? This...or what he had been, up until this point...was all he knew how to be. It was what he was. It was what he loved. Trick's thoughts chased themselves around his head, churning up fear and leaving a bitter despair, until at last, tired of covering the same ground and finding no way out, they sank into a sullen quiescence.

 

He was still brooding darkly late that afternoon, when there was a knock at the door. Trick was listlessly staring at the television as images flickered by without registering on his consciousness. A nurse, trying to be helpful, had turned on the set earlier, and Trick found that he lacked the energy or the will to turn it off. Besides, folks talked to him less if they thought he was watching the show. Whatever it was. He also lacked the desire to answer the door in any way. He'd found, visitors came in, whether he said anything or not. Sure enough, the door was opening. Trick sighed a bit, and mentally resigned himself to more platitudes and good intentions, which were nice in theory, but were not going to change a thing in reality. Trick perked up a bit when he saw that it was Marcus Solomon who had come into the room. Finally, he could get some of the answers he'd wanted as to what had happened after he had been knocked unconscious.

            "Ah Mr. Dacy! So good to see you awake! That was too close," Solomon said. He seemed strangely energized. He looked...pleased with himself, Trick decided. "I understand you do remember what happened?"

            Trick's mouth snapped shut on the greeting and question he'd been about to ask, and surprised, he asked instead, "How is it you understand that?"

            "I have had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Davis. I believe she was present when you told the doctor you remembered how you had come to be in the hospital? She called me to tell me that you were awake, as I had requested her to. You see, Mr. Dacy, I feel quite responsible for your condition. I am quite concerned with what has happened. So, please forgive me, yes, I pried into your health and recovery." Solomon sounded quite conciliatory as he said this.

            "So, you know I'm not gonna be the man I was, then," Trick said, almost succeeding in keeping all of the bitterness from his voice. "Aaahh, but it's not your fault, Mr. Solomon. Every cop knows this kind of thing can happen. I think it's why they made desk jobs, so guys like me had a place if they needed it, ya know?" The words tasted like ash in his mouth.

            "This is true. But I understand, you are not happy with the idea," Solomon said gently.

            "Not particularly, no," Trick said tightly, grinding his teeth. No need to ask where he got that information. Dacy. Her prints were all over this one. "But I don't see as I have much choice."

            Marcus noted Trick's anger. "Before you place all the blame on Ms. Davis for discussing your personal issues, I'd just like to say, she was only one source of information I tapped. I like to be thorough," Marcus amended smoothly. "And, consider: we are all concerned about you."

            Trick thought about this, and again felt a twinge of guilt for chasing her out the night before. His annoyance at having his still raw feelings exposed for discussion subsided somewhat. "I'm just not happy having my personal problems aired in front of everyone, is all," he grumbled. "It's not like all that talk is gonna help the situation."

 

Movement at the door caught his attention. Dacy had opened the door, and was standing there hesitantly. Solomon turned to see who it was.

            "Ms. Davis! I am glad you are here. Please, come in."

            With an uncertain glance at Trick, Dacy entered the room. She looked at Solomon, and with a puzzled look, pointed towards the door behind her and said, "Hi, Mr. Solomon. Hey, what's with --"

            "Oh, I am just making sure Mr. Dacy doesn't have to worry about anything. Like, answering doors. Apologies if I overstepped by assuming the role of the host," Marcus smiled. He had cut her off so quickly and so politely, it almost wasn't noticeable. Dacy looked confused. Solomon continued on, "I was just having a conversation with Mr. Dacy about his injuries and his future. I was about to correct an impression he has, that talk can't help a situation. In actuality, Mr. Dacy, I think you will find it entirely depends on who is doing the talking." The energy Solomon was radiating had increased exponetially. He obviously could barely contain himself, and looked almost smug. "I know that there is an experimental treatment that could help you regain everything you have lost, and you could continue on as you are, in the job you are best at. I also know that your insurance refuses to pay for it, as it is not necessary for your recovery as they see it, and it of course adds risk and expense." There was a small gasp from Dacy, and her hand flew to her lips. She hadn't known about the insurance. She shot an anguished look at Trick. Trick said nothing, intent on Solomon. "I am a man of vast means and resources, Mr. Dacy. You were injured in my employ. I will pay for the treatment." Solomon rocked back on his heels confidently, and looked at Trick expectantly.

            Now both hands shot to Dacy's mouth. "Oh, Mr. Solomon! Thank you so much! Isn't that wonderful, Trick?" Dacy exclaimed.

            Trick hadn't moved, his face still set on Solomon. His mind reeled. Yes, Solomon was his employer, but his contract for hire clearly stated that he, Trick Dacy, assumed all risk. That was part of what he got paid for. He knew this treatment was hundreds of thousands of dollars. As much as he wanted it, ethically, he already knew his answer. "Thank you for the kind offer, but you are not responsible. I can't accept it."

            Dacy stared at him, shocked beyond belief. "What? No! No, Trick, what are you saying? What do you mean, you 'can't accept it'? Of course you can! You'll never be the same, maybe even be crippled, if you don't! Right? You'll have to stop being a cop! This is a chance to have that back!"

            Trick, the pain and effort his decision was costing him etched on his face, quietly responded, "There is no guarantee the experimental procedure will give it back to me, anyway. I won't go and change the rules because I don't like them now. I can't. Not and still be me. Somehow, that seems pretty important to me right now." He looked at her. Dacy was quiet at this, her eyes huge and unhappy.

            Solomon's energy had, if anything, intensified. Restless, Marcus paced around as he spoke, his suit making soft mechanical noises in counterpoint to the metallic thunks of his boots on the linoleum floor.  There was an almost predatory gleam in his eye. "I rather thought you were a man who didn't sacrifice principles for convenience. Good to know I can still read people well. A talent that has served me well." Marcus smiled a hunter's smile. "I have another offer. As you likely are aware, I have a large organization, with many interests." Trick nodded carefully. "It had come to my attention, even before the vase was stolen, that there are times in which the services of an investigator, such as yourself, would be useful. In truth, I have hired detectives before, with mixed results. I even interviewed several at the time I hired you. None of them were as professional, or as skilled, as you." Trick inclined his head at the compliment, and waited for the rest. "So, here is my proposal: you would come and work for me, and I would get you the treatment that is currently being denied you." Trick started to shake his head. This changed nothing, really. Marcus continued with a sharp grin, "And here is the catch!" Trick stopped shaking his head, and listened. "When I was paralyzed, I directed my research and development team to come up with something that would restore my mobility. As an explorer, and something of an adventurer, I couldn't face life without use of my body. So, you see, I do understand some of what you are going through. Luckily, I had the resources to devote to this. My team developed many devices that would control gravity, thinking this would enable me to move. It proved awkward and unworkable, and eventually, we designed a system based on force fields that ultimately worked quite well. However, I did not get into the position I am in now by being wasteful! When I develop something, I don't want it to sit, unused and useless. I have been hoping for the opportunity to use these devices we created," he leaned closer, "and I am thinking, I just may have found it."

            "In what way would this involve me?" Trick asked, although he was fairly certain he knew the answer already.

            A nibble. Now to set the hook. "This technology was designed to be implanted. So you see, I need someone who is willing to have this added to their body. Not many healthy people are willing to undergo what may be a very complicated procedure. It is a big thing to ask of anyone. In fact, it is nothing I would ask...unless I had something of great value to offer that person. It is also something with a substantial risk. This is a new and unproven technology, and I can't predict all of the side effects or guarantee your safety. However, as with most things, those who risk much, stand to gain much. You would not be just back to your normal self. With my technology, you would gain powers that humans can usually only dream of! You could hold a fleeing criminal immobile until his arrest, bring the power of gravity to bear on a whole group of villains, you could even fly! As you practice and develop your control, who knows the heights your powers could reach!" Solomon was on fire with enthusiasm, clearly passionate about the possibilities and opportunity he was laying at Trick's feet. He bounced, rocking back and forth on his heels and toes, fairly bursting with his zeal.

 

Trick sat, immobile, containing his reactions as he mulled over this information. Dacy hovered in the room anxiously, unsure of whether to be excited by this offer, or aghast at the danger it also represented. She was, truth be told, a little bit of both, judging by the torn expression on her face. Trick was silent for what seemed like a long while. He was more than a little tempted by this offer. He looked at it from all angles, considering the impact he thought it would have on his life for either answer, and decided that, ethically, it was level ground. He was being offered what seemed to be a somewhat risky procedure in exchange for an operation that would give him the chance to be an active cop and a detective, like he wanted. Mortal danger for money. He'd done that one before, just in different packaging. He was also being offered possibly heroic type powers, in exchange for...not being a real cop, but working for Solomon. But, he'd be in many ways better, more effective than before. If this worked. No guarantees, he understood that. They both had a lot to lose. Solomon only had money on the line; and he had plenty of that. Trick stood to lose the most. But, without the operations...he would have already lost what he cared most about. However, letting Solomon pay for the operation and the technological enhancement, plus becoming his employee...well, the argument could be made that he owed Solomon at least that much. That was the trouble. Trick did not want to feel indebted, though he suspected, he might regardless. But working for Solomon as well as accepting the operations did not sit well. He would feel like Solomon owned him, and that wouldn't work.

            "Paying for the operation and offering me a job seems like overkill, to me. It puts me in too deep to you," Trick ventured.

            "It's hardly excessive benevolence on my part, Mr. Dacy. I get quite a bit out of the deal. And I can use you," Marcus returned.

            Trick tried another tack. "All right. I'm literally putting my life on the line, here, and have, already, for you. It could be said, you owe me. Right now, I am master of my own life. I choose the jobs I want, I can say no to the jobs I don't want. That ability has probably kept me alive, too; knowing which clients to say 'no' to. I'm not happy with giving all of that up. I'd also be giving up my chance to be a cop, which, if you recall, is one big motivation for getting the operation in the first place. If I did this," Trick took a deep breath. Marcus looked poised for action. "I don't want to be working for you. I need to be able to still be me, or there's no point."

            Marcus smiled. Trick had the feeling that his objections had already been seen and countered before he even opened his mouth. "I see your point. How about, you are available to me, should I have need of your services? Because, I do, and I will. Other than that, you are free to take what jobs you wish. I think you will find, however, that you can put your new talents to better use outside of a precinct." He extended his hands in a broad gesture of open encouragement. "Shall we get started?"

            The moment hung, suspended in time. Dacy and Solomon were motionless, waiting for some sign or movement from Trick. Finally, his eyes met Solomon's. "Let's."

 

Solomon unleashed his coiled energy in a quick spring towards the door. He banged three times in rapid succession, then stepped back towards the bed, his manner quick and efficient. Uniformed people began pouring through the door.

            "Your room at my facility is already prepared. We will get you moved over there now."

            Dacy's face lit in sudden comprehension. "That's why all those people were in the hallway!"

            Trick's jaw set. "Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you, Solomon?"

            "You don't get anywhere being hesitant, Mr. Dacy," Marcus replied, with a glint in his eye that looked suspiciously like humor.

            "What about the treatment I'm supposed to get? How can Dr. Rutherford and Dr. Phillips treat me, if I'm at your place?" Trick looked unsettled at the speed with which things were moving.

            "Wouldn't worry about it. They work for me now. Their research is really excellent! They are top notch. Couldn't let them get away. Are we ready to move out?" he asked a technician, who had stopped in front of him. The tech nodded. "Move out!" Solomon called.

 

Trick was quickly settled onto a gurney, and he and his equipment were wheeled out the door. Things certainly were moving fast. He wondered if the speed was to make sure he didn't have time to change his mind.

 

 

 

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TO PART 4 >






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