Wednesday, June 24, 2009

EJ's 'The Second Coming'

Reader Note: The following is another story in the RAD series authored by StarText columnist Ed Jackson, originally published May 23, 1986. It is made available courtesy of Dennis Brand, who has archived a great number of Jackson stories and columns.

The Second Coming

By e.j. (Ed Jackson)

It was a hectic time. It was a joyous time. It was celebration time. The turn of yet another century. . . the year 2500. Every prophecy of every sci-fi writer of every century had been fulfilled. Sci-fi writers were out of business. NOTHING was so far out not to have already bean accomplished. Even the robot/human war had come to an end, and robots had become totally integrated into society. They didn't have to carry I.D. cards to SHOW they were robots, and people had become so used to them that they no longer CARED if their beat friend turned out to be an android. Mostly, people tried to AVOID the knowledge. It was part of this culture to be 'blind' to the EXISTENCE of a 'second society.'

The Tribune's managing editor summoned Patrick O'Rourke to his office.

“You wanted me, Chief?”

“Come in, Pat, and set a spell. I have an assignment for you.”

“Aw HELL! I've got some vacation time coming, and I been looking forward to a couple of weeks on the moon in low grav.”

“This MAY be quite a story.” Bradley Thurman leaned forward and said conspiratorially, “I wanted YOU to have the first crack at it."

“Sure, sure.” Said O'Rourke sourly, “Translation? Another wack-o 'hunch' of yours that anybody with any seniority or brains would tell you to stick where the sun doesn't shine.”

“Now, Now, Patrick. . gotta have faith in your old boss. When you have as many years in the business as I'VE had, you develop a nose. . .no.. more than that. . . a sixth sense. . it intuition if you like.”

Patrick O'Rourke rubbed his nose thoughtfully, “Nobody is conned better or faster than an old con. . .. and that's what YOU are. Who has been whispering in your ear this time, Chief?”

“Have you seen the thing about the 'faith healing' that's been going on down at the mission on 45th street?”

O'Rourke's jaw dropped. “LORD! You aren't falling for THAT stuff are you?”

“Just check it out, O'Rourke, and get back to me. After a preliminary check, we'll decide whether to go all-out on it or not.”

“But CHIEF!”

“Just a preliminary, O'Rourke. Is that asking too much?”

“O.K., I'll go, Chief, but I think you're getting senile.”

O'Rourke closed the door a mite more forcefully than he intended to. He certainly owed the Chief that much, but dammit, he had a vacation coming, and he'd seen more faith healers in his time than you could shake a stick at. Not just here, but all over the world, he'd covered stories of moving statues, weeping statues, healing 'naturals' of every faith, race, and age. NEVER had he been able to prove ANYBODY ever truly healed ANYBODY of ANYTHING. 'Just a preliminary indeed! he fumed. But he went.

It was just forty-eight hours later that O'Rourke rapped on his editor's door, and followed the rap in. “You busy Chief?”

“Naw. Whatcha got, O’Rourke?”

O'Rourke fell into a chair, leaned back, stuck his feet on his boss's desk, and pulled out a pad.

“I don't know. I can't figure it out. That kook down there who claims to be the Son of God has ‘healed’ more people than I ever HEARD of being healed. NOBODY could afford THAT many shills. I don't get it.”

“He claims to be the Son of GOD?”

“No, HE doesn't, actually, but all his 'disciples' call him 'Master.' They say it like they mean it. THEY call him the Son of God.”

“So? You think he's really DOING it?”

O'Rourke scratched his chin. “I dunno, Chief. Every indication at this time is that it's true. But let's face it, Chief. YOU know it ain't true, and I know it ain't true. Only INDICATIONS of miracles are true. Only TALES of miracles are true. There just ain't no such animal alive today.”

“How does he work it?”

“Well, he opens up shop about 9:00 in the morning, and closes down about midnight, three days a week. He claims he must 'get his batteries charged' on the in-between-days. He takes all comers. He puts his hands on the afflicted part, and leaves 'em there for varying lengths of time, and then says, 'NEXT!' I'm sure I haven't seen anything that some magician, or some special effect man couldn't duplicate, but WHY? He doesn't charge any money. You can't even GIVE him money. There's no place to PUT any money you may WANT to give him. I can't figure what his game is.”

Thurman tapped a pencil on his teeth thoughtfully. “Then you're going back?”

“Sure. . .. but HOW? With WHAT? I TRIED to talk to him . . . no business. I TRIED to talk to his 'disciples' but nobody is talking. What's my move?”

The editor threw back his head and laughed. “Come ON, O'Rourke. You're not TRYING. I've seen you get interviews that simply were not get-able. You're STYMIED? HELL! Fake a sickness, and go in to be 'healed.' See what happens.”

O'Rourke looked embarrassed. “Sorry, Chief, I guess I still had my thoughts on the moon vacation thing. I'll get back to you.” He stuffed his hat back on his head and slumped out of the office.

. . . . . .

It was late. A skeletal staff. O'Rourke didn't REALLY expect the Chief to be there, but he was. He walked in without knocking.

“Oh, Hello, O'Rourke.” said Thurman, looking up. “Hadn't heard from you in a few days. I was about to send out the dogs after you. What happened?”

O'Rourke sat down, lit up a smoke, and squinted at the Chief through the smoke. “You just ain't gonna believe this. I don't know if I believe it myself.”

“Try me.”

“Well, I went in, like you said, and faked an illness. I told the man that I had recurring migraine headaches. He felt around, here and there and then smiled at me. He said, 'Why do you come to me with a migraine headache? Have you no faith?' Well sir, that got me flustered, and all I could come back with is, 'What do you mean?' He replied, 'Migraine headaches are transitory. Unless you came in here while you were experiencing one, I could not help you. However, your diabetes is a long term disease that you have had MANY years. Why did you not ask for relief from it?'“

The Chief jumped up. “Gosh Almighty, O'Rourke! I never knew you were a diabetic. You had diabetes and didn't think to ask him to heal you of that?”

O'Rourke shrugged. “Why SHOULD I, Chief? Remember? You and I BOTH know there is no such thing as miracle healing. . ,. right? The truth is, like I told him, I've had it so long. . . gotten so used to it. . . that I simply forgot it.”

“And what did HE say?”

“He laughed, and then said, 'No matter. You are healed. REMEMBER you are healed, and do NOT attempt to take insulin any longer. It could have a VERY bad effect on you. Remember these rules, and you will have a long and happy life.” Then he told me some things, and I jotted them down in my pad.”

“And you BELIEVED him?”

“No . . . not at first. . . I let a couple of days go by, and my blood sugar checked out right down the line. I went to my doctor for a urine test, blood test, the whole makeup. He was mystified. He couldn't explain it. Chief . . . he said I don't have diabetes anymore.” He tore a page from his pad and said, “Get a load of this, Chief.” He read:

“Redemption and Deliverance:

Fourteen commandments:

1. Place YOUR God first.

2. Desire only what you EARN.

3. Honor TRUTH above ALL.

4. Accept the responsibility for your actions.

5. Obey the law of the land.

6. Honor and respect ALL Gods of ALL people.

7. Respect and defend the lives and properties of others as if they
were your own.

8. Place JUSTICE above MERCY.

9. Temper Charity with a respect for the self respect of others,

10. Honor your contracts, be they monetary or moral.

11. Have faith in your OWN sense of logic and good sense. Accept
NOTHING on faith alone.

12. Realize the limitations of your intelligence. Do not mistakenly
believe you can understand the workings of the universe, or understand
some mystic 'plan' of God's.

13. Do the BEST you can. Even GOD can not ask more.

14. Love your spouse, your children, yourself, your country, and your
God. ... in that order.”

O'Rourke sat there in the now smoke-filled office. He was on his seventh cigarette. The office was silent. The click of computer terminals in the next room was inaudible. The hum of the presses was so much a part of the building that neither man heard them. So . . . the office was silent. He broke the silence. “Well, what do you think?”

Bradley Thurman. . . O'Rourke could hardly REMEMBER his name . . . he'd called him 'Chief so long . . . sat there squinting back at his reporter.

“Something there rings a bell, O'Rourke, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Let me see that paper.” He took the note sheet and looked at it.

R.A.D. Fourteen commandments.

1. Place YOUR God first.

2. Desire only what you EARN.

3. Honor TRUTH above ALL. Accept the responsibility for your actions.

4. Obey the law of the land.

O'Rourke had risen and was re-reading his note pad over his boss's shoulder. Five was as far as he'd gotten when his editor leaped to his feet.

“I've GOT it, O'Rourke! I've GOT it!”

“Got WHAT Chief?”

“I don't have it ALL, yet, I don't know WHAT his scam is, but I know WHO he is!” He smacked a beefy fist into a palm. “I KNOW who he is!”

“Well, you gonna let me in on it?”

“M'boy, you are going to have the privilege of seeing the old man at work. Grab your lid and let's GO.”


“To see your new Jehovah.”

“I never said. . .” But the Chief was half way out the door. “WAIT, Chief! You can't see him NOW. He closed up shop hours ago.”

“So we'll open it.” he grinned. “Don't worry. I have the password.”


It was almost dawn when they arrived at the little downtown mission. O'Rourke hadn't a CLUE to what the Chief was talking about. He just kept saying, 'You ought to read more history, O'Rourke. I know who he is. You understand? I know who he is. They walked into the tiny 'lobby' of the mission. An unshaven clerk looked up.

“I want to talk to your resident priest, or rabbi, or what-ever the Hell he calls himself.”

“You mean you want to talk to the MASTER?”

“You bet. You got it, old timer. Rustle him out here.”

“That's not possible. I can't. . .”

“I'll take full responsibility. Just tell him I want to see RAD Fourteen. He'll understand what I mean.”

“Rad Fourteen, Chief?” said O’Rourke.

“I TOLD you I knew who he was.”

“Chief. ... I don't think. . ......”

The door opened and the man who had cured O'Rourke's diabetes walked in.

“I understand you want to see me but who is this Rad Fourteen you mentioned?”

Puzzlement was plain on his features.

“Don't give me that crap, preacher. YOU are Rad Fourteen and you KNOW it? Now what *I* want is the whole story. What kind of scam are you running, and how do you work it?”

The man smiled. “I understand. If you come this way, I'll fill you in.”

They followed him through a small passageway into a large clean-looking room. It had marble all over everywhere, and it was difficult to tell whether it was just a room, a laboratory, or a temple. There was a large frosted glass screen, and behind it, a hint of winking lights in various colors.

“Won't you sit down?” They sat. “Now suppose you tell me what YOU know, and then I'll fill in the details.”

The Chief sat, and then hunched forward in his chair. “I couldn't get it all together, until O'Rourke showed me his pad, with the notes. Instead of 'Redemption and Deliverance,' he'd abbreviated, 'R.A.D.,' and the NEXT word was 'Fourteen. ‘As soon as I saw those words together, the bells rang. R.A.D. Fourteen was the first truly humanoid robot that started the whole thing. The R.A.D. stood for Robots-Androids Development, then. Was your 'Redemption and Deliverance' a coincidence?”

“No. A conceit.”

“O.K. How do you work it?”

“It's simple, really. Before I was dismantled, I left some rather complex plans for my resurrection. A lot of time had to pass before the proper technology became available, but my lawyer, St. John, and the Judge Donovan, who sentenced me, kept the notes on my return, and built the present world of human/robot existence.

“When they reconstructed me, my new plans came into play, with all sorts of 'miracles' built into my framework. I really DO heal people, you know. ... OF COURSE you know, I healed Mr. O'Rourke of his diabetes. I do it with special penetrating and healing rays of particles which they only DISCOVERED a few years ago, but which I PREDICTED would be there. It took Gigatrons to even FIND them, and people don't understand their properties yet.

“Somehow I knew that merely HEALING the sick would not be enough. A lot of the sick are sick in mind as well as body, so I wanted to get at the people who were in despair. . . . who had given up on their God, and themselves. I had to create not a new God, but a new religious philosophy.

“So, I 'returned.”

"Didn't I TELL you, O'Rourke? Didn't I TELL you! We've got a Pulitzer prize winning story here!"

He started to jump to his feet. ... only to find his arms clamped down by circling arms. Rad Fourteen smiled. "You think I waited all this time to have someone like you come along and ruin all my plans? I'm sorry, gentlemen, but your new bodies will extend your life indefinitely, and the adjustments to your minds and memories will be minimal. Please believe that."

He and O'Rourke hardly felt the needle-pricks.

Ed Jackson -- Mail Code 1125