Over the weeks that followed on from his awakening, Ben goes through a number of tests and trials to check his stability and get him acclimatised to the new additions. Unfortunately, during that time the news leaks to the worlds press. As a result Ben becomes the most famous person in the world overnight and is heralded as the dawn of the future of humanity. Ben hates it. He doesn’t understand it and just wants to go back to his life but because of his exposure to the anomaly he is grounded from any further missions not just in relation to the membrane suit but also into space in general.
Because of his new found fame Ben is often chased and hounded by the paparazzi who want endless interviews, exposes and photo ops with him all so they can fuel the media machine and fill their pockets with money.
That is why Ben has taken to disguising himself when he goes out with a pair of mirrored sunglasses and a cap which he keeps pulled down to help hide his face.
Right now though he is sat in Doctor Bernard Riccitello’s office which is sparsely populated save for a sofa, an arm chair, meagre desk, an office chair and two simple office seats. The walls are light grey in colour while the wide near full height windows, of which there are three along the one wall, fill the room with sunlight. Because of the windows there is no need for the use of artificial lights, yet Ben knows there are strip lights recessed into the ceiling some three metres up. Doctor Riccitello’s psychiatric practice is based out of an old three storey beachside house. Ben is convinced that it must have been designed by an architect who had spent too much time on acid and not enough on the practical needs of what a building should achieve. He’d even tell the architect as much if he ever met him. Yet that seems unlikely as this former house must be more than seventy years old. At least in Ben’s approximation that would be his guess.
“So what you’re saying is this was…” Bernard, a man with thick shoulder length black hair and ice blue eyes paired with a deep red tie, white shirt and grey jeans, says before pausing to select the most appropriate word. The pause is short but meaningful and Ben waits until the shrink says, “…unforeseen.”
“Like a dream that turns to a scream, doc.” Ben replies without a moment’s thought or hesitation.
“Pardon?” Bernard replies confused.
“Nothing. Just something my mother used to say.” Ben admits with a shake of his head and a roll of his eyes, while his hands approximate a shrug. The yellow energy that has replaced his fingernails flickering as the light reflects off their shimmering, shifting surfaces.
“Curious. Never heard it before. What does it mean?” Bernard asks genuinely intrigued.
“Does it matter?” Ben asks, unable to see the point in this conversational thread.
“I think it would help yes.” Bernard admits.
“Next you’ll be asking me to tell you about my mother.” Ben responds with a chuckle.
“If that’s what you would like. After all, I am here…” Bernard begins but doesn’t get to finish as Ben interjects and completes, “…to help me. I know doc. You’ve said, about a thousand times this session alone.”
Ben is exaggerating. Bernard has mentioned it twice. But the doctor gets the former-astronauts point. Still, Doctor Riccitello isn’t sure his words have sunken in. Ben is a lot more reticent to speak about things than he’d like, which is why they’re sessions are not progressing as well as they should be. That had been in his previous report back to the director. If Ben cooperated and opened up more there’s a chance he could return to active duty. Bernard can’t say for sure that it would happen but he would have expected a man of Ben’s intelligence to have worked that out for himself.
Nevertheless this tangent is helping to keep the man calm and at ease which seems to be a rarity now that he’s world famous and to some even regarded like a god. Bernard can understand how that might be difficult even though he has never faced such a thing in his own life. And that is where Ben thinks Doctor Riccitello has missed the point. There is no way he can understand what Ben is going through. He’s never faced it. He’s never had his dream, his purpose stripped away from him by what so many want to call a gift. How is it a gift if all it’s managed to do is ruin his life? It isn’t. A gift is something you want or need and this is neither.
“Ok, fine.” Ben relents. He is in no mood to argue and so explains, “Like a dream that turns to a scream essentially means a dream turning into a nightmare.”
“Truly? Well that is very original. But why did your mother not simply just say that?” Bernard asks wishing to know more.
“Wasn’t her way doc. She liked to…have original ways of delivering things. Can’t explain to you why as I don’t have a clue. Only one person could fill you in on the thought process behind it. So you’d have to ask her.” Ben explains before offering a shrug.
Ben’s mother, Charlotte, died five years ago from lung cancer. Bernard knows that and he also knows that Ben knows he knows. Bernard takes the point and so moves on. “So how are you feeling? Overall, I mean.”
“Like I have to hide just to step foot outside of my apartment without getting mobbed by enough paparazzi that anyone would think I’m the second coming.” Ben says with snort as he holds his arms wide similar to a crucifixion pose.
Doctor Riccitello wonders if Ben sees the irony in his actions as he briefly examines the yellow energy where the grounded astronauts’ fingernails would have once been.
“Maybe you should embrace this.” Bernard reasons while pointing to the energy claws. The psychiatrist can think of no better description for them. Yet it was not a description he came up with. Instead it is what Doctor Lindsay and her team dubbed them prior to Ben’s discharge from the Hopper Medical Institute. The discharge came following several rounds of in depth tests and analysis. Unfortunately, none of the research they conducted led to any conclusions that explained how it had happened, why and worst of all for Ben, if it could be reverted.
“See here’s the problem with that doc. I was an astronaut. A daredevil as one particular person used to dub people like me. I did the dangerous stuff scientists cooked up. Was fully aware that one day one of them might, just might, kill me. But it was all calculated risks. That’s how we’ve come this far, as a species, and we need to go a lot further if we’re to survive. We both know this planet isn’t going to support us for much longer. We have three generations tops before the disasters start carving our world apart, ending lives in great handfuls.” Ben stops and runs the flat of his right hand over his forehead. His eyes are closed as he does so and then he shakes his head barely noticeably and before continuing.
“Now I went up to Prometheus. Knowing I could die up there doing a space walk in a suit that could vastly accelerate our timeline. So that things that we might not have been able to do until there is only one generation left can be done three or four years from now. That’s a hell of a reduction in time loss. It gives us real hope for the future, but on the maiden real-world test I get hit by a radioactive anomaly that turns these…” Ben shows his thumbnails, which are still like Doctor Riccitello’s. “…into these.” Ben shifts his hands to showcase his energy claws which sizzle barely perceptibly even in the silence that hangs in the air.
“And because of these I can’t help further that research. Hell, for all I know that research is dead and buried because of what happened to me. So do you get why, doc, I might not see this change as anything other than a curse and a burden?” Ben concludes. He doesn’t want to discuss this any further. He gets what Doctor Riccitello is trying to get at but if there is an upside he’s yet to find it.
Especially, as it seems these yellow energy claws serve absolutely no purpose. They’re present but that’s about it. Though, they do make hiding more difficult. Plus, trying to pick things up is far more problematic than it ever used to be.
“I can. But some clouds have…” Bernard begins but for the second time Ben interjects and finishes, “…a silver lining. Well, I haven’t found one yet. I’m grounded, probably permanently. Cause no one is going to want me on a pressurised tin can with high energy fingernails that might, though it hasn’t happened yet I should add, be able to cut through the hull like a hot knife through butter.” Ben’s shoulders slump in defeat. His dream really has turned into a scream. It’s what he wants to do as well, scream. Howl and curse about how he had everything he wanted in the palm of his hands and then it just slipped through his fingers without warning, without a chance to prevent it from happening.
“Is that what you really think Ben?” Bernard asks feeling the younger man’s pain as it pours out of him creating an almost physical yet invisible affect on the air around him. At least that is how Doctor Riccitello would explain it. No such thing is happening in reality. It’s just a way of detailing how it seems to better describe the events of this session.
“Doesn’t matter what I think doc. What matters is what the director thinks and if he thought I was fit for duty I’d be up on Prometheus right now. But I’m not. That alone should be all the proof you need to answer that question.” Ben replies with a resigned shrug before his head lowers and he stares between slow blinks at a patch of thick charcoal coloured carpet a half metre away from the sofa he’s sat on.
Bernard knows this is the end of the session even if the allotted time has not elapsed. That is why he lifts and twists his left wrist to glance at the dial of his watch face. Fifteen minutes earlier than the end should be, but Doctor Riccitello knows better than to push and so simply admits, “Ok Ben. We’re done.”
At the decision by the psychiatrist, Ben feels relief wash over him as he quickly and yet somehow also slowly rises to his full one hundred and ninety five centimetre height and then offers his hand. Unlike everyone else, Bernard nods, stands and then reciprocates the handshake. It’s firm and respectful even if Ben refuses to look Bernard in the eye now and instead simply sighs silently.
With the handshake over, Ben turns and heads out of his psychiatrists office. He’s already paid, so he quickly bounds down the external metal steps, ignoring the salty fresh sea air as he dons his cap and sunglasses and then for extra security throws the hood of his grey hoodie up over to further obscure his face. All this he manages before he sets foot onto the sidewalk, but as soon as he does he turns in the direction of North and plods down the street making sure to keep an even pace with those around him. Most of the other pedestrians move in the same direction as he does, yet they are all dressed in shorts and t-shirts, while Ben is wearing blue jeans in addition to his cap and hoodie. His hands hidden in the pockets of said hoodie.