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JIMMY STU LIVES!
By Kent McDaniel
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Ten minutes before the televised Easter Sunday service for Nashville, Tennessee’s three-thousand-strong Church of the Living Lord, Reverend James Stuart Sloan finds himself unable to come up with a sermon. Despite the urging of his car-salesman second-in-command to add some pizzazz to today’s sermon, Jimmy Stu remains uninspired.
Over the years he has gradually lost his faith, and after suffering a heart attack and the passing of his beloved wife two years earlier, Jimmy Stu finds himself staring down the long and lonely road to old age and death with nothing to comfort him, not even his once unshakable belief in God and the hereafter. With that fear in mind and with minutes to spare, an idea comes to him. And so he preaches about the familiar story of the resurrection of Christ, then segues into a resurrection plea of sorts for himself – calling on his followers and viewers everywhere to help fund his cryogenic preservation so that he might continue to do God’s work in the far future.
More than a hundred years later, Jimmy Stu wakes up, as if from a long dream – and the real nightmare begins...
A voice croaked, “He’s alive. Isn’t he?”
A softer voice responded, “His signs are stabilizing. We can’t predict his mental condition.”
Alive. Through the dim consciousness, the word swam up. But – no.
Again, the fierce whisper: “He’s alive.”
Alive, then, but who? Jimmy Stu? Jimmy Stu Sloan?
He seemed to be lying down, his back pressing into a firm mattress. He could feel his body! He opened his eyes enough to peek through his eyelashes. He opened his eyes! Rows of circular lights floated just below the ceiling ten feet above him. A torso in a white lab coat stood beside him, lustrous black hair falling to its waist. Another torso, clad in a coat of orange brocaded cloth, pressed close behind the first.
A third, deeper voice, rumbled, “His eyelashes just fluttered.”
“Really?” The hoarse voice asked. A lean handsome face lowered itself to the level of Jimmy Stu’s head, and dark eyes peered at him.
Jimmy Stu closed his eyes.
“You’re right,” the voice cried beside him. “He’s waking!”
Hands shook Jimmy Stu’s shoulders. “Uncle, wake up!” It was the hoarse voice, choked with emotion, Jimmy Stu realized then. The hands shook him again. “Wake up!”
The soft voice, a woman’s certainly, cried, “Careful, Peter.” The hands fell from Jimmy Stu’s shoulders, and he could hear feet shuffling.
Jimmy Stu opened his eyes and turned his head. A tall lean man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, stood three feet away. A beautiful woman with long black hair, full lips, and dark, glittering eyes held the man’s left arm with both hands, knuckles taut. Behind her towered a golden behemoth of a man, brown hair curling down to his massive shoulders.
“You’re awake!” the lean man – Peter? – cried, his face aglow. He wore loose white trousers, brown sandals, and a Nehru shirt of orange brocade. Something in his bone structure – the high cheekbones and noble brow – reminded Jimmy Stu of someone. Jimmy Stu cleared his throat. “So ... it would seem.”
He moved away the sheet covering him. He moved! Naked, he pushed himself to a seated position. Vertigo rocked him, and he swayed. Patches on his arms and chest the size and shape of fifty-cent pieces pulled at his bare skin.
The woman rushed up and steadied him. “Are you all right?” They all had a strange accent – not American, not English, nor Australian ... maybe a combination, with a hint of a lilting drawl.
He took a breath. “I think so.” He glanced right and left. What seemed to be a monitor with undulating lines flowing across it, floated at the end of the gurney. A machine as wide as the gurney floated between it and the wall. The woman pulled the patches from his chest and arms, and the lines on the monitor disappeared.
He stared at her. “Are you with Thorne Cryogenics, then?”
She looked over her shoulder at the lean man who hurried over, hand to his jaw, eyes averted. “Well, uh, not exactly, uncle,” he said. “Actually, this is lab is owned by SynthaLife, Incorporated.” He tipped a hand toward the woman. “Shama is a senior researcher here.”
“SynthaLife?” Jimmy Stu stared at him.
Shama touched Jimmy Stu’s arm and looked into his eyes. “We develop and manufacture synthetic life – biological androids. I’m a biochemist and an officer of the company.”
“Androids?” Jimmy Stu blinked. “Robots?”
“Synthetic life.” Her tone was patient. “Our product is organic.”
He shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “What’s all that got to do with cryonics? Or Thorne Cryogenics Labs?”
“Actually,” Peter said, stepping closer to him, “Thorne Labs was bought by the Church of the Living Lord over eighty years ago.”
Jimmy Stu drew back like he’d been tazed. “My church? Bought Thorne Labs?”
Jimmy Stu pointed at Peter. “You’re with the Church of The Living Lord?”
Peter grimaced. “Not ... exactly.”
Jimmy Stu sputtered, “Well, what-what the hell’s going on? Who the hell ... who the hell are you?” He stared around the chamber almost as large as a basketball court, its walls and floors spotless, gleaming white. Opposite them, five doors stood along the far wall, a window beside each door. In the room’s middle were a couple tables with drawers underneath, and beakers, flasks, and test tubes on top. On his side of the room, another table stood at the far end, longer than the others, with a sink. In between it and him floated a metallic device the size of a large suitcase, lights oscillating across it. High on the walls, large windows revealed the black of night above.
The bronze giant lumbered up to Jimmy Stu with a set of clothes much like hospital scrubs, only royal blue. “Why don’t you try these on?” he rumbled. “Looks like they might fit. I’m Joachim,” he added. “It’s an honor to be here tonight, Your Holiness.” He held out the clothing like a communion bowl.
After a few seconds, Jimmy Stu took the garments. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, he slipped them on, marveling at how smooth and muscular his limbs were. Dizzy again, he sat back down on the gurney and whispered, “I was dead.” He stared at the dark, lean man. “Who are you? Where am I?” He put his hands to his temples.
“I’m Peter Alvarez,” the man said gently. “Your great-great-great-great-nephew.”
Jimmy Stu stared.
Peter nodded at the dark-haired beauty in the lab coat. “This is Shama Besic.” He pointed at the giant. “And this is Joachim Davis.”
“Great-great-great-great?” Jimmy Stu’s voice came out as a croak. “It ... it worked? It actually worked?”
As he’d been dying, apprehension had nagged him about Thorne Labs’ use of the ‘neuro’ preservation option. It’d seemed too fantastic. They’d assured him all they needed was his head, that they’d someday be able to scan and record his DNA, and use organic material to produce an exact replica of him – head, torso, limbs, organs, nervous system ... everything. They promised technology would someday exist that could map his brain, record its state, run a simulation indistinguishable from his original mind, and imprint it on his newly generated brain. Even to him, the hope had seemed desperate and pathetic. “It worked, then?” he repeated.
“Yes.” Peter beamed. “You’re alive and, it would seem, well.” He put his hands on his hips and leaned toward Jimmy Stu. “Do you feel well enough to travel? We’d like to take you Joachim’s place outside the city.”
Jimmy Stu looked around the lab, at the night sky in the windows, then at the three people. “Why am I here? Not at Thorne Labs?”
Peter clasped Jimmy Stu’s shoulders. “Please, uncle, we need to go – now. We can use an aero-chair or auto-stretcher if you need. I’ll explain on the way.”
Jimmy Stu drew back, but his shoulders remained in the Peter’s grip. “Yeah, I’m sure you can.” Jimmy Stu looked inward. “But can I believe you?” His voice fell. “What do I know, really? I’m here. Alive. With you. How do I know who you are, what you want?”
Peter looked horrified. “Uncle, we’ve risked everything to bring you back. We would never harm you! The will of God made flesh! But we need to leave now. Your life could depend on it.”
There was a beep. Peter and Shama blanched. The beep sounded again and repeated every few seconds.
“Who?” Peter glared at a large oblong rectangle of opaque beige light that appeared on the wall. Beside the rectangle, a red light blinked in sync with the beeps.
Shama jabbed a finger at a door across the lab. “In my office! Quickly!”
Jimmy Stu stared back and forth between her and the screen. Joachim jumped over and wrapped an arm around his torso, hefting Jimmy Stu like a sack of potatoes. He trotted toward the doors across the lab, with Peter at his side. They scrambled through a door, and it slammed behind them. They were in an office with a large window facing the lab. Shama stared wide-eyed at them through the window, moving her arms up and down in short jerks. Peter tapped the window, and it became opaque. Joachim set Jimmy Stu on his feet and tapped a black plastic strip on the wall. A screen of light like the one on the lab’s wall appeared.
Peter’s voice was shrill. “We’re not transmitting?”
Joachim folded his arms across his chest, then glanced at Peter. “Just receiving. Relax.”
Lightheaded, Jimmy Stu stared at the screen. Abruptly a red-haired woman with high cheekbones and slightly tilted cobalt eyes appeared in the hologram. She wore a jumpsuit of black leather.
Shama’s voice said, “Hello?”
Peter growled, “F**k!”
The woman appeared to be standing beside a large semi-circular desk in a spacious lobby, two brutes in black jump suits like hers lounging ten feet behind, at the edge of the screen.
“She’s here!” Peter spat. “Downstairs!”
On screen, the redhead smiled icily. “Dr. Shama Besic?”
The redhead inclined her head and shoulders in a sort of mini-bow. “Phuong Blake, with the security department of the Church of the Living Lord. We have reason to believe that you possess an item stolen from the Church of the Living Lord.”
Jimmy Stu glanced at Joachim, then spun around to Peter and whispered, “You stole something from them?”
“Yes!” Peter hissed “You!”
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