Chapter One: The Harrisburg Center

The building the Harrisburg Center was housed in wasn't much to look at. A rectangular structure, three stories tall, it stood on a few modest acres of land.

Near the front of the building was a small fishing pond and a grove of apple trees. The lawn wasn't what Edison expected. It wasn't neatly manicured, though Edison thought that it looked like it was at least mown a couple of times a week. He could see dandelions, clumps of crabgrass and clovers dotting the landscape.

He got out of the Network 23 company car and strode down the wide stone path, taping everything with his vidicam. He could edit out anything he didn't need later. He was met at the front door by a smiling man in a light tan doctor's coat.

"You must be Edison Carter," the man said, briskly. "I'm Dr. Richard Benson."

Dr. Benson looked about seventy; wrinkled and age-spotted with thinning white hair. He had one eye that had a severe cataract. Edison noticed that he was supporting himself with a cane and wondered if it was due to age or injury.

"Ah yes," Dr. Benson noticed where Edison was looking. "A fine piece of craftsmanship isn't it? I've had her since the Big Three."

Edison looked confused. Surely this man hadn't seen combat during World War III? He would've been about fifty five at least.

"Oh heavens! No, dear boy!" Dr. Benson laughed. "I didn't fight! At my age! Dear me, no! I was wounded in one of the bombings. My wife was killed, though my son Julian made it out unscathed. Lucky boy. It was that experience and the people who helped me to recover that made me decide to open this center."

"Harrisburg? Edison asked.

"My wife's maiden name was Harris," Dr. Benson explained. "I named it in her honor. Come with me and I'll give you a tour of the center."

Edison followed Dr. Benson through the front door.

"This is the treatment level," Dr. Harris told Edison. "Here we have staff offices, physical therapy, and psychological therapy both individual and group. At the moment our staff are busy preparing for some new arrivals."

"The ACS hostages," Edison said.

"Yes," Dr. Benson agreed. "Poor kids. I understand you're friends with one of them."

Edison nodded.

"Well, you can be assured that they will all be treated well." Dr. Benson said as they stepped into one of the elevators.

Getting out on the third floor, Dr. Benson led Edison through the archway that led into a long corridor.

There were five doors lined up. Edison looked up from the vidicam, which went on filming.

"I know what you're thinking, Mr. Carter," Dr. Benson said. "Five doors and seven guests. Behind each door is a small apartment set up to hold two people. I believe that it is best to house our guests in pairs so that each one will always have somebody there for them."

"What about guest number seven?" Edison asked.

"One of our staff members will room with him or her," Dr. Benson explained.

Edison followed Dr. Benson into one of the rooms. The tour was short. The main room was small, consisting of a mixture of open area kitchen and living room. Two doors led, from left to right, to the bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom was small and closet-free with a bunk bed and dresser. The bathroom had a corner tub, sink and toilet.

When they came out to the main room again, Edison noticed that it didn't seem to be completely furnished.

"It looks very cozy," he said. "Not very big, but certainly comfortable. No TV?"

"We keep our televisions on the recreation level below," Dr. Benson said. "Studies have shown that people who have been hostages are often upset by sudden newsflashes about their ordeal. So to prevent anyone being taken by surprise by such a report, it was decided to keep the TV sets out of the apartments."

"Makes sense," Edison said. "What sort of treatment plan do you offer?"

"We deal with each case individually," Dr. Benson said. "However, as you noticed we're only fifteen minutes from town. As our guests recover to the point where they feel more comfortable doing so, we encourage visits into town; always in pairs or groups. It usually takes time before a former hostage is fully comfortable returning to society. Even if the crisis was very brief, there are fears that linger. It will not be easy for those kids, but my staff and I will do everything we can to help."

"Well, thank you for the interview," Edison said.

"I'm sure that knowing what we are all about will put those kids' parents at ease," Dr. Benson said as they walked back to the front door.

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