New Brother by UnpublishedWriter
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Kozaburo Nambu flipped his phone shut and blinked back tears. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Still incurable. No wonder Eileen was half-crying during the call.

He could kick himself for not recognizing it sooner. I can read a room full of people, calculate the electrical load of that room, and work out a physics problem almost at the same time, and I missed the symptoms.

Except the early symptoms of ALS are easy to dismiss as caused by tiredness or overwork. Only time reveals that the problem is not caused by age, overwork, or over-enthusiastic physical training. Time.

That didn’t help to ease his mind. Nor did the reality that Eileen worked in the aeronautical division of the ISO’s Utoland City facility, so that he only saw her outside of work.

Ken had sensed it, as shown in slipping grades and increased disciplinary notices from school. Which meant Joe had picked up on it while staying with the Washios.

Neither boy had been able to put his feelings into words. Perhaps they’d not even consciously realized that they were worried or troubled. When they got into fights, they probably really believed they were defending Eileen and him against gossip.

Joe wasn’t one for sharing his feelings. A childhood in a psychological combat zone had turned him into a smoldering fire that could flare up at any second. You kept your worries to yourself on BC Island. Only recently had Joe felt comfortable initiating any conversation about his emotions. Vague fears and feeling would remain locked up inside.

Over the past eighteen months, Joe had changed from a possessive, needy child into a nearly average boy. He’d accepted outsiders into his life. Would the news undo that progress?

***** ***** *****


After receiving the diagnosis from the doctor, Eileen Washio had a good cry. She called Dr. Nambu with the news, after which she had another good cry.

I want Kentaro. I want my husband. She wanted him to scoop her into his arms and tell her not to worry, that he would take care of her, that everything would be fine.

He wasn’t here. He was gone. Undercover in Hontwarl, learning about Galactor. Setting up intelligence networks that would give the UN and Interpol more than a name and suspicions. Calling him back might jeopardize his comrades.

Screw that, I want him here.

No.

Get hold of yourself.
There was always the chance of a cure, or effective treatments. In any case, she couldn’t lose control. Ken needed her.

There were things to do, decisions and plans for the future to make.

Figure out how to tell Ken.

***** ***** *****


Nambu hesitated in the living room entry. “Joe. Son?”

Reading his tone, the boy switched off the television. “Yes.”

The words stuck in his throat. “Eileen called me at work.”

‘We didn’t do anything today,’ was all over Joe’s face. “What about?”

Nambu crossed to the couch. “May I?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“She’s sick. She has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There’s currently no cure.” Except, perhaps, becoming a cyborg.

“I think I heard of it. Didn’t Hawking have it?”

“He did.”

“That’s about all I know. It puts people in wheelchairs.”

“It’s a slow way to die.” Gods, I don’t want this. He explained the disease to Joe, about the difficulty of diagnosing it, how it usually progressed, and that Eileen would lose the ability to walk, speak, and take care of herself.

“There’s nothing you can do?”

“There are treatments. That’s all. No cure. The treatments help a little, but they don’t stop its progress.”

“What about implants? In her brain?”

“So far, no one has made those work for people with ALS. I spent the day searching the literature.” Implants helped with certain types of physical disabilities, and even a few types of brain injuries, but not with diseases that wasted the body.

Joe leaned against him. “What about Ken?”

Tricky question. “Long before you came here, Eileen asked me to look after Ken if anything happened to her. He doesn’t have any other family. I had agreed.”

“He’ll live here with us?” Joe sounded hopeful.

“Eventually.”

“That’s good.”

Recalling the boy who clamped onto him whenever anyone approached, Nambu asked, “Do you mean that? He’ll spend more and more time here. You won’t have the place to yourself.” Meaning: you won’t have me to yourself.

“It’s Ken. Besides, you made a promise.”

That was easier than he thought. He wouldn’t question it. There would be problems enough later on.

***** ***** *****


“No!” Ken yelled. Tears started.

“Honey,” she reached to him.

“First Dad and now you?” He clenched his fists as tears ran down his cheeks. “It’s not fair!”

She reached for him. He jerked away and ran to the door, intending to run and run until he couldn’t run anymore and then maybe she’d be all right it would all be a bad dream ---

A crash and a cry: “Ken!”

“Mom!” Guilt flooded him. He returned to the family room. She’d tried to stop him and had fallen. God, he was such a jerk. “It’s okay, Mom I’m sorry I didn’t mean it please be okay,” he begged as he tried to help her up.

“I --- I’m not crippled yet,” she soothed, managing to get both legs working together. “I just tripped. It’s not your fault. I forgot I might trip, that’s all.”

“You’ll be fine,” he insisted. “Uncle’s smart. He’ll find a cure. I know he will.”

“That may be. We can’t assume that.” She took his hands. “I’m sick, now, Ken. We have to deal with that. I can’t do all the things I used to do with you. I really will need your help.”

“I know. No more fighting, and get my grades back up.” He watched TV. He knew the score.

“More than that. Errands, a few more chores, that sort of thing.”

With effort, he kept from crying. “Sure.” You’ll get better. I know you’ll get better.
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