A Look In The Mirror
- Epilogue -
Joe massaged the purring black kitten in his hands he'd so long ago acquired during that incident with Michael Payton's wife.
Wife, wow. He never could get it to sink in.
"Medical examiner's report came in," Julian reported, leaning on the back of a chair from his seat in the wheelchair. "It wasn't Doctor Samuels in the car. We think it might've been some homeless guy dressed to look like him. Metropol's still trying to identify him."
"So, Doctor Samuels's is still out there, and somehow this Aiko Chan just staged the murder to get my attention."
"Looks that way."
"There's no way to know whether or not she knew you'd flip to Michael Payton."
"I wouldn't rule it out."
Julian cleared his throat. "Anyways, I think Gerraro's going to forgive you. In fact, she expressed how surprised she was that criminal mischief Michael Payton was willing to risk life and limb to save her."
"Yeah? Well, she's not the only one in awe."
"Look, Joe." His name came out hesitant on Julian's lips. "I owe you an apology."
Joe turned to him, surprised. "You owe me? Julian, I wrecked the Viper. Not to mention Frankie's car... Gerraro's date... At least I didn't hurt your kids."
Julian laughed softly.
"What's so funny?"
"You." He wheeled out from behind the chair to face him more directly. "Michael Payton wasn't like Connor, Joe. He wasn't like anyone I - even Frankie - encountered. ...Except one man, you."
Joe sighed. "Sometimes, I wonder..."
Julian's smile turned to a look of concern and sympathy, but he said nothing.
The kitten meowed at him.
"So you don't remember anything after hitting the Quantimax truck?" Julian inquired.
He shrugged. "Not really, no. The next thing I knew Frankie was in trouble and Miss Chan was hanging off the cable. It wasn't till Frankie found out it was me that it hit me that something was off." He stroked the cat again. "You suppose she got what she came for?"
"If she didn't, I imagine we'll see her again."
"That's a scary thought." He eyed Julian. "So... ah... Michael say anything about me?"
"He said you were a do-gooder and insane for messing with the Outfit, but - and I quote - 'He got himself some pretty rad wheels there, so I guess that counts for something.'"
For the first time, Joe laughed. "Nothing else, huh? Nothing about where I was born or what friends I had or how many others out there have an axe to grind with me?"
He turned away sadly. "So, he's gone. Just another look in the mirror."
"Delia's willing to talk to some doctors to get that chip deactivated. 'Just say the word,' she said."
"She has every right to feel guilty for what she let them do to me." Joe looked at Julian again. "But I don't think I'm ready to have some doctors poking around up there. They might miss, you know. Besides..." He stood up, scooping up the kitten and looking out the window of the dining area to the level below where the Viper sat. "Michael Payton didn't make me the man I am, the Viper's driver."
Julian caught up with him.
"I made myself."
He found a faint reflection in the glass and smiled.
Viper (Season One) Summary: The story begins approximately six years into the future in a city run by a powerful criminal organization called "the Outfit." Julian Wilkes invents an experimental police vehicle called the Viper to fight them. There's just one problem. The car lacks a driver. So enters Joe Astor. Joe was once Michael Payton, a thief and the best driver the Outfit's ever turned out, until a greedy councilman with nothing but the thought of running for mayor on his mind has some doctors give him a technologically-induced amnesia. They alter his appearance and give him a new identity as a police officer. However, the Outfit soon finds out who Joe Astor really is and reveal to him the dark secret in an attempt to employ him to stop this potential threat to their operations. Joe, torn between the man he was and the man he'd become, eventually sides with the car; and when the Outfit pays city officials to trash the project, Joe, with the help of Franklin X. Waters (a car lover from the Metropol motor pool) and a reluctant Julian Wilkes liberates the car to fight crime as it was meant to...
Delia Thorne, briefly mentioned in this story, once worked for Metropol and was the one who authorized Joe's induced amnesia. She's always felt guilty about it. Later on, she joins a group called "The Consortium," a kind of anti-Outfit organization that occasionally employs the Viper team.
Lieutenant Sally Gerraro used to be Detective Sally Gerraro until she got promoted in the series. The team helped her put away a couple of criminals, including exposing a few crooked cops she didn't know about.
Mister Townsend was a major player in the Outfit. We never find out what happens to him. Mister Lane Cassidy appears to have replaced him. To everyone else, Lane Cassidy is a charity guy, but as Delia has said, "He is as crooked as they come."
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me.