In June of 2000, I received this story from a fan who wanted my opinion on it. After reading it, all I could say is, "Wow." While not being directly Christian, it presents a wonderful, thought-provoking "what if" look at the meeting of these two magnificent individuals. Curt, it's only fitting that the first work in the Showcase is yours. And I'm honored to be able to share it. Thank you. (Mark Eidemiller, April 12, 2002)P.S.: Curt invites your comments, but requests that you include DOC SAVAGE or THE VISIT in the subject line to avoid being filtered out.
Written by Curt Bolding
The doctor's meditations were interrupted by the sound of a motor. It began as a low growl, its steady rhythm growing in volume as it drew closer. The doctor peered across the vast snowfields and presently the vehicle came into view. It was a small but sturdy two man Snow Cat, of the same type that the doctor had used himself to reach this remote location. When it became clear that the Snow Cat was indeed heading for his location, the doctor's mind began working at a rapid pace. No one in the world except for a few of the doctor's close associates should have even known of the existence of this place, deep in the Arctic Circle and away from the prying eyes of man. There was nothing but snow and ice for hundreds of miles in any direction, which was why the doctor had chosen this location for his activities. The doctor experienced uncharacteristic annoyance at this most unexpected and unwelcome intrusion.
The Snow Cat ground to a halt in the snow about twenty yards away from the doctor, its tires raising clouds of white dust, which sparkled in the bright sunlight. The engine coughed twice and was silent. The lone occupant stepped out into the biting cold, garbed in a heavy winter coat, gloves and a stocking cap. The occupant was a tall man, nearly as tall as the doctor himself, and wore spectacles and an easy smile. "Hello," he began, "I apologize for the intrusion, but I've come a very long way to see you. In fact, I've wanted to talk to you for some time, and I thought it best that we have some privacy." The bespectacled man looked at the doctor, who met his gaze with piercing eyes, easily the most intense gaze that the man had ever seen.
"Who are you?"
"A reporter from America."
There was a pause. The men continued to gaze into each other's eyes, as though sizing one another up. Presently the doctor stood up from where he had been sitting in a lotus position on a small weathered rug. His only garment was a plain white sarong.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," the reporter offered.
"My daily exercises," replied the doctor. "I was just finishing up anyway."
The doctor stood at his full height. His scant garment, worn in the midst of the bitterly cold Arctic landscape, was not the most impressive thing about the man. He was a few inches taller than the reporter, who considered himself a tall man. Beyond that, the doctor appeared to be a physical marvel. There wasn't an ounce of fat on the man's body. He was powerfully muscled but not in the manner of a modern bodybuilder. His arms and legs were thickly corded with sinew. His torso looked like that of a Greek god, and as he stood it was apparent that he possessed an agility on par with his evident physical power. His body was suntanned a deep bronze color.
In short, the reporter decided, the doctor looked like a statue given life.
The doctor's unusual physical appearance almost overshadowed the other remarkable aspect of the scene. Behind him was a large structure, somewhat dome-like in appearance. The layer of snow that covered it hid its actual architecture. The doctor approached the structure and, his back hiding the reporter's view, seemed to manipulate something on the wall of the structure. Immediately a panel began to rise up into the wall, and the doctor motioned for the reporter to accompany him. As soon as they had entered through the hidden door, it slid back into place, where it fit so perfectly that not even a seam between the door and the wall was visible. The structure was large, and quite warm.
"Pardon me while I dress," said the doctor. "Please make yourself at home." He stepped into a side room and closed the door. The reporter took off his coat, gloves, and hat and hung them on a nondescript coat rack by the door next to some other garments, apparently the doctor's own. There did not seem to be anyone else here at this remote location. The reporter, however, was not surprised that the doctor had chosen such a remote and desolate place for his work.
The reporter wiped the fog from his glasses and took stock of his surroundings. The center of the floor plan was sunken, and along one wall were a gas fireplace and a comfortable set of furniture. A simple but efficient looking kitchen occupied another corner along the raised portion of the floor plan. Exercise equipment was located a short distance away. Open spaces in the walls were filled with bookshelves, which contained texts on subjects as varied as medicine, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and military science. Through a door next to the exercise equipment was a smaller room that apparently housed a modest laboratory. The only other door in the structure was the one that the doctor now emerged from, and seemed to be his private quarters. There were a few small, mostly snow covered windows between the bookshelves, which let in enough light to provide sufficient illumination.
The doctor was now clothed in a white, short-sleeved button up shirt, khaki trousers, and black boots. He strode confidently into the room. Looking at him now, the reporter observed that the man was a veritable giant. It had not been so apparent outside in the frozen landscape, but now that the reporter observed the doctor around everyday items such as the chairs and furniture, his true size became apparent.
"You had a long trip," he remarked. "Care for some refreshment?"
"What have you got?" Again, the easy smile.
"Coffee, water, and strange as it sounds up here, iced tea," answered the doctor. "I'm afraid I don't have anything stronger."
"That's all right," said the reporter. "I don't drink anyway."
"I know," replied the doctor quietly.
"Coffee would be great."
The doctor prepared a small coffee machine in his little kitchen and looked on with interest at the reporter, who continued to study the unusual furnishings of the structure. The reporter himself was not a small man. His hair was black and curly, his jaw was strong and his blue eyes were clear. His glasses were black rimmed and somewhat out of style. He wore a heavy sweater, nondescript trousers, and boots. The collar of a light blue shirt peeked from the top of the sweater around the reporter's rather thick neck. The doctor glanced at his visitor's coat and hat, which hung on the coat rack near the hidden door. It did not escape his notice that the reporter was not dressed as warmly as would most who would dare venture into this inhospitable climate.
"Are you hungry?" inquired the doctor as he crossed the room with two steaming mugs of coffee, one of which the reporter gratefully accepted. "I hadn't planned to eat until a bit later in the day."
"Very good, I'll prepare something for us after a while."
Both men sat down on the furniture located in the sunken area in front of the fireplace. The reporter took a drink of his coffee and sighed deeply. He seemed very comfortable after his journey. When he spoke, his voice was soft and relaxed.
"This is really something," he remarked, looking around the interior of the structure.
"Not as large as some places I've heard about."
"True. But no less impressive. You seem to have everything you need right here."
The reporter leaned over to the coffee table and picked up a sizeable textbook on engineering. Several other textbooks and papers with written notes littered the tabletop.
"Are you sure I'm not intruding?" he asked again. "I mean, barging in like this unannounced?"
"Not at all," said the doctor reassuringly. "I'm not working on anything particularly earth-shaking right now." Another pause.
"I guess I should get around to introducing myself," began the reporter.
"I know who you are."
At this, the reporter started almost imperceptibly, but recovered immediately. The doctor, an expert at observation, observed this with appreciation for the man's skill.
"How did you find me?" asked the doctor conversationally, taking a drink of his coffee.
"I checked for you in New York first," answered the reporter, "where I received the usual runaround from your staff. You know; he's busy, can't be reached, be glad to take a message, and all that. After I thought about it for a minute, I decided that it might be best if we had some privacy, like I said before. So, I headed north, and after a bit of searching, well, here I am." The doctor seemed to consider this for a time. Then he continued:
"The Arctic is a pretty big place."
"I have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," chuckled the reporter, with amusement at his own joke. The doctor allowed himself a small smile at this, his first show of any emotion. "Yes," he said. "I've heard that about you." Then:
"Why are you really here? You're not a reporter."
"Actually, I am," smiled the bespectacled man. "I work for a major metropolitan newspaper. But you're right, that's not why I'm here. The fact is, I owe you a very great deal, and I thought it was past time that I talked to you about that." The doctor said nothing. He took another drink of his coffee.
It was late in the day, and darkness falls quickly in the Arctic. As it did so, automatic lights that were strategically located around the doctor's retreat came on, providing more illumination. The reporter looked around as this happened, still displaying obvious admiration for his host's accommodations. Presently, with a sigh, he spoke again.
"You said you know who I am?"
"Yes," replied the doctor matter-of-factly. "In fact, I've been expecting you for some time." Another pause. "Although, I must admit, you've thrown me a bit of a curve with your appearance. Why those?" and the doctor made a gesture towards the reporter's face.
"These?" the reporter reached up and took his glasses off. He seemed to regard them for a moment, as if seeing them himself for the first time. Then he chuckled again, and tossed them to the doctor, who caught them deftly. "Believe it or not, they really do work," he offered.
"Ingenious," mused the doctor, after examining them briefly. "I would have never suspected that you would have any need or desire to disguise yourself. Such a simple ploy and you actually get away with it?" The doctor didn't bother to hide the admiration in his voice.
"Yes," replied the reporter with some pride. "Like you said, the idea of a disguise never seems to occur to anyone." He made a wry face. "Except one of my co-workers."
"He knows?" asked the doctor, who tossed the reporter's glasses back to him. The reporter folded them and slipped them into a pocket, glad that this part of the charade was over.
"She. Yes, she knows. In fact, she suspected for years. Several times she almost caught me but somehow I always managed to keep her from finding out. It was quite an entertaining little game for a while. Then something happened that I never would have expected. We fell in love, and I couldn't hide it from her any longer. I told her myself, and not long ago, we married."
"You told her?" asked the doctor. His voice was sharp with concern, perhaps even disapproval.
"Haven't you ever had a woman in your life?" countered the reporter, somewhat defensively. "Surely, after all these years ... I mean, I know where you're coming from. I did the same thing myself for years. Never allowing anyone to get close, for fear of what might happen to her. But she and I ... I don't know. After years of being close to one another, something changed. I didn't want to be alone all my life. We're so different from all the rest of them anyway." His voice trailed off. He didn't know what else to say. Talking to a man of the doctor's stature, he almost felt as though he'd broken some unwritten rule.
The doctor didn't reply. He looked at the floor. Presently he spoke in a quiet voice.
"It's been so long." He looked up and gestured at the bookshelves that lined every available space along the walls. "I've spent so much time with these as my only companions, other than my assistants. Medicine, chemistry, electrical science. And now the nuclear sciences to keep up with. It takes a lot of time."
"But?" pressed the reporter gently.
"I wouldn't know how to act any more," replied the doctor, and for the first time the reporter saw pain in the man's eyes. He felt a great sympathy; for it had not been that long ago that he had shared the doctor's views on the matter. "A couple of my associates certainly like the diversion that the ladies provide," continued the doctor, "but it's never been for me. My entire life has been devoted to my career. As a child, I received schooling and training from the world's finest scientists, fighters, and criminologists. My father saw to it that I had the most comprehensive education and training possible, and there was never time for emotional attachments." He waited while that sunk in, and, decided it was time to change the subject.
"What was your own childhood like? It must have been very difficult."
"Actually, no," replied the reporter, becoming reflective. "My childhood was one of the best times of my life. I was raised by a lovely old couple who had never had any children of their own. Farmers, in the Midwest. You know," he said, almost going into a dreamlike state, "I understand why they call it the Heartland. The wide open spaces, the waving of the wheat fields in the height of summer. My adopted parents taught me all the good things in life: loyalty, love, responsibility. And my God, the stars in the night sky." He smiled his easy smile again, wishing he could share those experiences with the lonely bronze giant.
The doctor seemed to think on this for a time. At last he spoke: "You know, I can point out all the constellations in the night sky to you at any time during the year, from any place on the planet. I can chart a course from anywhere I happen to be to anywhere I want to go. I can even recount the origins of those constellations from memory. But simply appreciating their beauty was something that always eluded me."
The doctor stood. The reporter stood also, and they regarded one another. The sheer physical presence each man exuded was indescribable. With a smile, the doctor concluded, "It's time for some dinner. I always treat myself a bit on Saturday night. It would be very appropriate if you would join me. Not that I could make you, of course," and the doctor smiled once again.
"I would be honored," replied the reporter.
Dinner consisted of fish, frozen fruits and vegetables, and iced tea. The doctor had caught the fish himself, earlier in the day. It was one of the few recreational pleasures he allowed himself, rationalizing that it was well to have some fresh food during one of his extended stays. He had brought the frozen fruit and vegetables with him, having no way to obtain fresh specimens. He would have preferred to have all his food as fresh as possible, for nutritional value, but during an extended stay in the Arctic, that was not possible. He also wished he had something better to offer his guest than the food which comprised his often monastic lifestyle, and said so.
"Quite all right," grinned the reporter, "you'd be surprised at some of the things I can digest."
"I've had a few bizarre dishes myself," agreed the doctor over a bite of fish. "Fortunately, one of my assistants is a talented cook and takes pretty good care of us whenever we rough it. I remember a python he cooked up in the Amazon Rain Forest once." The reporter smiled at that, recalling similar experiences of his own. He had been thinking of their earlier conversation about childhood and returned to it now.
"You know, we share the same first name."
"Is that so?" For the first time during his guest's visit, the doctor was genuinely surprised. "That's an interesting coincidence."
"It's not a coincidence," replied the reporter. "You were very well known when I was young. In fact, my parents named me after you. I told you before, I owe you a very great deal." He finished his iced tea. "You've been a positive role model for countless young people over the years, you know." The doctor seemed genuinely embarrassed by this. "Yes, well." he began uncertainly. "I think you've had a greater impact than I have." He cleared the dishes away. "You're certainly better known. In fact, I imagine that you could go anywhere in the world and be known on sight. Incidentally, I'd offer you dessert, but I don't indulge much."
"I couldn't eat another bite anyway," sighed the reporter, "but I could sure go for another cup of that coffee. It's wonderful."
"That's from Brazil, too," smiled the doctor. "I always stock up whenever we're down that way." He started another pot, and shortly thereafter the two men returned to the living area in front of the fireplace.
"Now just how," began the reporter conversationally, "do you figure that I've had a greater impact on the world than you have? I mean, you've been everywhere, done everything. So many of us owe so much to you. Probably no one more than me, but still. You did it first. And you're still doing it."
"People have forgotten me," answered the doctor. "Granted, I was well known years ago, but the world has changed. It's gone on. A lot of people don't embrace our ideas anymore. And very few still remember me."
"More than you might think," advised the reporter. "But I know what you mean about the world going on. One of the things you and I have always had in common is that we've always gone out of our way to avoid killing anyone. We always search for other solutions before we're willing to cross that line. But now people are starting to respect killers."
"My point exactly," said the doctor. "So many people look up to the man who accepts the easy solution, the man who is willing to simply kill his adversary rather than find another way to deal with the situation. It's disheartening. Don't get me wrong; I'd never consider changing my methods, and I doubt that you would either. But you have to wonder. I thought we were creating such a positive influence, showing people a better way to live. The world has become such a complicated place."
"I know. The responsibility is overwhelming, at times. Every time you act, you know that whatever you do will be subject to scrutiny later on. No matter how much you help people, some of them will always be distrustful of you. Perhaps even fearful."
"I expect you've had to deal with that more than I have."
"Probably. Getting back to the other, though. Are you still running that college?"
"How's it going?"
"Very well, thank you. I've taught the procedure to several other doctors in my employ, and some of them are now even better at it than I am. In fact, I seldom perform the operation any more at all. My employees have even improved on the original method. Even so, I must admit to a recidivism rate of about two percent, which is still better than what it was when I first started. Nowadays, I'm on the board of directors and provide financial support where needed, and that's about it. The college pretty well runs itself."
"That's amazing. See, that's what I was talking about. You've accomplished incredible things, things no one else could have even conceived." He stopped briefly and his eyes misted over. "If it wasn't for you, I would probably have never been conceived. I've been portrayed several times in film and on TV. Few, if any, really understand me, but they seem to do a good job illustrating the principles that I stand for. Of course, if they hadn't, I would have put a stop to it years ago."
The doctor sat on the edge of his seat, elbows on knees, fingers interlaced in front of his mouth. He felt a surge of unaccustomed emotion. "What are you saying?" he asked, his voice somewhat thicker than before.
"I'm saying," the reporter replied, his own voice full of emotion now, "that if it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't be here right now. I certainly wouldn't have been able to accomplish the things that I've managed to do. If it hadn't been for you taking the lead, the inspiration that I needed to follow my own destiny would have never been there. And I wouldn't have been able to communicate the message to all the people that I have. It's all thanks to you, and that's why I've come here. I wanted you to know that, and I wanted to thank you in person."
The doctor nodded. This was one of the most rewarding moments in his life, to have this man, this man, come here and say these things, and to thank the doctor for leading the way. The doctor felt younger than he had in years.
"I should be getting back," said the reporter. "It's late. And those Snow Cats carry a pretty hefty rental price on a reporter's salary." He finished his coffee and stood. The doctor stood also, stepped towards him and gave him a heartfelt handshake. The doctor was an extremely strong man, but the reporter's hand was like gripping steel.
"Will you get back all right?" asked the doctor, realizing the foolishness of his question even as he asked it. "You bet," smiled the reporter, as he put on his coat and hat. The doctor caused the hidden door to open and walked out into the bitter cold of the Arctic night with the reporter. At the door of the Snow Cat, they shook hands again.
"I don't suppose we'll ever meet again," said the doctor.
"No, I suppose not."
"Give my regards to your wife."
"I surely will."
"What's her name?"
"A pretty name." The reporter climbed into the Snow Cat and started the engine.
"Thanks again, Doctor Savage. For everything."
The Snow Cat lurched forward. Its lone occupant winked at the doctor as it pulled away. It swiftly disappeared into the Arctic night, its engine diminishing in volume until all was silent except for the sound of the wind. The only evidence of its having been there at all was its tracks, which were soon obscured by the blowing snow.
Lovingly dedicated to Lester Dent, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster, who led the way for us all.