Fledgling jason steed, p.1
Fledgling: Jason Steed,
Mark A. Cooper
Copyright © 2008, 2010 by Mark A. Cooper
Cover and internal design © 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover art and design by Sammy Yuen
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
Source of Production: Versa Press, East Peoria, Illinois, USA
Date of Production: August 2010
Run Number: 13163
Table of Contents
About the Author
I wish to dedicate this to two very special people:
who without any doubt is my best friend.
Also dedicated in memory of Raymond V. Steed.
Two months after his fourteenth birthday he joined the ship Empire Morn as a steward. He died April 26, 1943, at age fourteen years and 207 days, after an explosion from a German mine destroyed his ship. He is the youngest recorded service death of World War II.
Whereas Jason Steed is purely a fictional character, Raymond V. Steed was a real hero and as such should not be forgotten.
—Mark A. Cooper
Jason released the brake. The plane lurched forward and started to gather speed. He increased the throttle and increased speed. Lights from a vehicle came on ahead. The sirens went off, and the guards poured out of the barracks. Jason slowly pulled back on the tiller. Nothing happened. The plane just continued down the runway.
It bounced and rattled its way toward the buildings. He gave it more power. Still nothing happened when he tried to lift the wheels off the ground for takeoff. The buildings were now getting close; the plane felt lighter to control but would not clear the buildings. He cut the power and applied the brakes.
The plane slowed and bounced to a stop. They were now desperately close to the barracks and Weing’s armed guards. Again, he opened the throttles and slowly turned around. He applied the brakes and opened the throttles again. The back of the plane started taking shots from behind.
“Jason. Go! Go!” Wilson shouted as he turned the rear machine guns on the oncoming guards. Both Ryan and Peter in their Plexiglas domes turned to the rear and also began shooting.
The tail began receiving heavy fire. The armored jeeps were getting closer and closer. The second jeep had a mounted machine gun and started firing at the plane. Wilson targeted this vehicle and unloaded his rounds. The driver and gunman were killed instantly; the jeep veered off to the left and turned over, bursting into flames.
Wilson was screaming at the top of his lungs for Jason to move, but the noise of the engines drowned any sound he made. Jason pulled the throttles back farther. The plane’s old body shook violently.
“This baby is going to need everything to get it off the ground,” he said to himself.
He applied more throttle, building up the revs before he eventually released the brakes.
The plane launched forward. He pulled the throttle back farther and farther. With its 110-foot wingspan bouncing, the B-24 stormed down the runway. Now that it was going faster, it felt lighter to control. Jason opened the throttles all the way; he wanted to get as much speed as possible. He pulled back the tiller. The end of the runway and the wire fence rushed toward him. He had to go now. He was going too fast to stop.
The thirty-three-ton plane slowly lifted off the ground and roared into the cloudless dawn sky. Wilson, John, Ryan, and Pete started cheering as they left the complex behind.
Jason turned on the radio to call for help.
“This is Jason Steed of the 22nd Platoon Sea Cadets requesting flight information—over.”
Ray Steed was on the bridge, He could not believe his ears when the sweet, unbroken voice of his son came loud and clear over the airways. The bridge crew members cheered and gave Ray a pat on the back. Ray had to fight back his emotions.
“This is Jason Steed of the 22nd Platoon Sea Cadets requesting flight information—over,” he repeated.
“G’day. Jason Steed, this is Broom Air Force Base North Western Australia. Roger Bankman speaking. Please give your position—over.”
“I have no idea, sir. Somewhere over Jakarta, flying southwest, 22 degrees—over.”
“We have you on radar. What are you flying, Jason?” Roger replied.
“I don’t know, sir. A big American World War II bomber. It has four engines, three domes. It’s green, noisy, and bloody huge, sir.”
The officers on the bridge of the Ark Royal, including Ray, fell about laughing. Then, a new voice came over the airways.
“This is Commander Elliot from Special Forces. Jason Steed, we got your message.”
“What message, sir?”
“Are you still in a position to trade for some carrot cake?”
“Wow! You got that? Yes, sir, I want to trade.”
“Then, Jason, keep heading toward Broom Airfield. Someone will meet you there.”
Eleven years earlier…
March 27, 1963
That’s my grandson at the end,” said Mr. Macintosh, peering through the window of the maternity ward, making a smudge on the clean glass with his greasy forehead.
“How do you know that’s him?” asked Mrs. Macintosh.
“The other two bairns have got teddy bears from their parents. It must be him. The poor wee mite has had no visitors,” he replied.
“And you are?” came a very stern voice from behind them. They turned to see a little gray-haired old lady with thin spectacles on her nose, wearing a white nurse’s uniform. It was the hospital-appointed nanny, Angela Watson.
“I’m Raymond Steed. I’ve come to see the baby. These are Mr. and Mrs. Macintosh, my wife’s parents.”
She shook Mr. Macintosh’s hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you both. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m Angela Watson.” She then turned, put her hands on her hips, and glared at Ray. “I’ve been looking after Blue. Oh, I called him that because his father has failed to show up for three days and give the poor child a name.”
Ray took a breath, chastised. His six-foot-two-inch muscled frame was no match for the
She beckoned them into the ward and gently picked up the tiny infant and then passed him to Ray. The baby had faint blond hair already showing on his hairline, and his blue eyes looked around the room. His delicate lips opened and revealed a tiny toothless mouth.
“Oh, my God, he’s beautiful. Look at his eyes. Just like our Karen’s eyes,” Mrs. Macintosh said, trying to fight back the tears and kissing the baby’s tiny, soft face.
Tears trickled from Ray’s own eyes and down his cheeks as he recalled the events that brought his son into the world.
Ray had just returned from his morning run. He took a shower and emerged from a cloud of steam to find Karen sitting on the toilet, looking worried.
“Get dressed, Ray. My water’s broken.” Without a word, Ray ran into the bedroom and squeezed clothes onto his wet body.
Karen was taken by wheelchair to the delivery room, where Ray was forced to wait outside. He paced up and down the bright-white corridor, waiting for news. Hours had passed when a nurse left the room and ran down the corridor.
“Is everything all right?” he called after her.
Ray got no reply. He now started to worry. He found himself slightly light-headed, so he sat on the cold floor outside the delivery room.
Karen had been so excited. He remembered her beautiful beaming face when she told him the news—the same night he had proposed to her just nine short months ago. He had met Karen on the flight from London to Hong Kong. Ray had just buried his parents and was on his way back to the HMS Tamar, the Royal Navy’s land base in the British colony Hong Kong, where he was stationed.
When Ray finally heard the wail of a newborn, he jumped to his feet in excitement. He waited and waited, and still, no one told him anything.
Ray was now starting to panic. He made up his mind that he was going in. As he put his hand to the door, it opened, and a doctor came out.
“Can I go in now, doctor? How is Karen?”
“I am Dr. Collins. I attended your wife’s delivery, sir, and what I have to say will be very hard for you.”
“What’s wrong with the baby?” Ray demanded, preparing himself for the worst.
“The baby? No, sir, the baby is fine. You have a healthy baby boy. It’s Mrs. Steed. She had severe internal bleeding that caused a massive heart attack, sir. We could not use a defibrillator to restart her heart until we got the baby safely out. I’m sorry, but she never recovered.”
“Why did you save the baby? You should have saved Karen first—damn it. Go back and do something!”
As he looked into his son’s eyes for the first time, Ray saw that Mrs. Macintosh was right.
“He does have Karen’s eyes.” He sniffled. “Karen said if we had a boy, he would be named after her father. As part of her wishes, we must call him Jason—Jason Steed.”
When you heard the delicate gurgling and saw his head wobbling around and eyes searching the room, you could never have guessed that before he would turn twelve, this tiny bundle would play a major role in the prevention of a nuclear war, but then again, you could never have guessed the kind of boy Jason Steed was…or what was about to make it all begin.
March 31, 1968
A few days after Jason’s fifth birthday, he was shopping in Hong Kong with his nanny, Miss Watson. They passed Wong Tong’s Karate School. Jason stopped and peered in through the window. Inside, older boys were participating in a martial arts lesson. Jason was fascinated by the moves the boys made. They wore white robes with colored belts and looked to be enjoying what they were doing.
Wong Tong was a tiny Chinese man with a bald head and a long, thin moustache that hung down to his chest. He wore traditional, gold-colored, silk Chinese clothing.
“Jason, come on. We have to get you some new shoes. Your father’s coming home from Vietnam tonight. You want to look smart if he takes you out, don’t you?”
“What are they doing, Nanny?” Jason asked, pointing his tiny finger at the boys inside.
“That’s karate. You’re too young for that. You have to wait until you’re a big boy like them. That means eating all your vegetables and not just carrot cake,” Miss Watson said, pulling his hand and walking off. Jason pulled away and went back to the window, although as soon as he had, he knew he would be in trouble.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye. It was very unusual for him to disobey Miss Watson.
“Jason Steed, you get here right now,” she said, looking down at him over the top of her glasses and giving him the “kill look.”
“No, I want to do karate,” Jason argued. Miss Watson was very surprised by his outburst. She bent down to smack the back of his legs. Jason lifted his leg out of the way, and her hand smacked against the window with a loud bang.
“I want to do karate,” Jason repeated.
“You just get here, young man. I don’t want to hear another—” By now, Miss Watson’s patience had run out. She swiped at his cheek with the back of her hand. This time, Jason dodged her hand to avoid the smack. Jason’s head hit the glass window, causing a loud smash, shattering the glass and cutting his forehead open.
Miss Watson immediately pulled out the shards of glass from his cut and placed her hand over the wound to prevent further bleeding. She looked him over to see if he was cut anywhere else.
“An ambulance is coming,” a voice called out from the karate dojo. “Can I help?” asked the owner Wong Tong from inside. His English was broken but understandable.
“Thank you for calling the ambulance. Can we come in and get out of the glass? I am so sorry about your window. He is normally a good boy,” Miss Watson replied.
“I see whole thing when you bang hand on my window. Why you not let boy do karate? He move very fast to get away from hand that smacks—that is good thing, yes?” Wong Tong asked.
“You call this a good thing?” Miss Watson said, peering at him over her glasses.
“No, boy need teach how to control move.”
Jason said nothing. He didn’t cry, although he wanted to. While they waited for an ambulance, Jason asked Wong many questions, much to the annoyance of Miss Watson.
The ambulance took them to the local hospital, where Jason received nine stitches. He and Miss Watson returned home to an open front door. The home had been broken into. Thieves had taken the black-and-white television set, a radio, and a small pot of cash Miss Watson kept on the kitchen counter. They had also ransacked the apartment. Clothes, books, and Jason’s toys were thrown across the apartment floor. By the time Miss Watson had gotten off the phone with the police, Ray was getting out of a taxi with another man in uniform.
“Dad’s here,” Jason shouted, looking out the window.
Tired, Ray had returned with a fellow lieutenant, William Giles. Ray had volunteered for duty in Vietnam the same day Jason was released from the hospital. After that, he’d only see his son for short visits every six months or so.
“What on Earth has been going on here?” he shouted.
“Well, I think that’s obvious, isn’t it? I have called the police. I think I forgot to lock the front door,” Miss Watson told Ray.
“You didn’t lock the door? Where were you?”
“At the hospital with your disobedient son. Oh, and you also have a glass window to pay for.”
“What happened to his head?” Ray demanded angrily.
She went on to explain the events. Partway through, Ray shouted at Jason to go to his room and go to bed. Miss Watson set her jaw. She very carefully told him to calm down and not to raise his voice at her.
Ray paused. He’d just come back from five months in a war zone. It was only going to be a quick stopover before he would be gone again. Coming back to this and being told by his employee to calm down in front of a fellow officer made the situation worse. One thing led to another, and he accused her of being incapable of looking after a child and a home.
To his sur
After she left, William and Ray picked up the items around the apartment and dealt with the police. Jason got out of bed and looked through the crack of his bedroom door. In spite of the dressing down, he had hoped his father would come and see him. Once the police left, Ray apologized to William.
“I am sorry you had to come and see this. You can see why I hate coming home.”
“I hope you don’t mind me saying, Ray, but you don’t seem to be very close to your kid. Do you really hate coming home?” William asked.
Ray fell heavily into the couch and sighed. He pulled out a metal toy tank from under the cushion. “Coming back here…reminds me of Karen. The hospital let Karen die, saving the kid. That decision ruined my life.” Ray passed William a picture of him and Karen at their wedding. “Now look at the mess I have to come back to.”
Jason forced his hand in his mouth to stop the sound of his gasping. The only person he knew well and loved, Miss Watson, had just left—and now this. It was his fault his mother had died? He crept back into bed and cried himself to sleep.
Jason awoke the next morning at six to the sound of the front door slamming. Ray had gone out for a run. While his father was out, he got himself dressed and had a breakfast of milk and carrot cake. William was still sleeping on the couch. Jason was attempting to wash his glass clean when his father came back. He did not want to be too much trouble. He had even attempted to make his own bed.
“Morning, Jason. How is your head?” asked Ray.
“Okay, thank you, sir,” came the quiet reply. Jason never looked his father in the eye.
Ray said nothing.
“Hey, kid, can you get me a glass of milk?” William asked Jason.
“Yes, sir.” Jason poured a glass of milk for William
Ray sat on the couch beside his friend. “So, tell me, Jason, how is school? Have you many friends? And please tell me how you managed to ‘head butt’ a window at a karate studio.”
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