What Happened to Roland ter Borcht?

[I am still working on this article. The text may change.]

Roland ter Borcht is a minor villain in the third Maximum Ride book. He’s briefly mentioned in the second book, but does not appear. He’s a disgraced geneticist with a complex past – but it's not really borne out in the actual text. We get a little bit of it, but not the full story.

What we know a little more about is the role he played in the marketing campaign for the third book. Let's go to the evidence.

January 1999 – ter Borcht’s reputation is at its best, and he’s at a party in Washington, DC. He’s backed by Itex.

March 1999 – a body is found in the Potomac. Odd, but what does this have to do with ter Borcht?

April 1999 – an email exchange between Walter Powers and ter Borcht. Some answers! The dead body was ter Borcht’s former assistant. And Powers is under outside pressure...

Undated: this business card.

This plane ticket is only dated “30 Dec” - no year. That’s not really important... but this is:

(The text of this article appears in chapter 51 of School's Out -- Forever.)

Here's the mystery.

There is just enough here to tantalize. In early 1999, ter Borcht is at the height of his fame - but his nameless assistant is causing problems. The assistant is murdered in March by persons unknown but perhaps under the control of Powers.

Powers and ter Borcht barely have a dynamic – boss, star researcher – but there’s enough there to play with. Powers is sniping at ter Borcht for his refusal to “play the game”; ter Borcht snipes right back.

Speculation: following the discovery of his assistant’s body in the Potomac, things begin to come to light that implicate ter Borcht, but not Itex as a whole. Something happens in spring 1999 that drags a great deal of things into the light that we, as readers, are not privy to. And they’re all pinned on ter Borcht.

ter Borcht’s medical license is revoked in 2001. He’s tried by a jury of his peers and declared insane, then confined to a rehab facility in the Netherlands. (Which seems slightly odd to me – he was working in the US. Is he Dutch? Why there?)

He’s a shadowy figure in the last half of the second book – important in some way, in the background, involved in the creation of the flock. We know that Jeb Batchelder helped him fake some paperwork related to Nudge.

Then he shows up in the third book in person and... is yet another interchangeable mad scientist. His whole schtick is “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent is funny”.

There’s at least a short story’s worth of intrigue here, I think. You’ve got the prima-donna researcher at the height of his fame. A murder that directs attention to him. A trial that brings terrible things to light, but ultimately results in a verdict of insanity rather than of criminal activity. And a corporation so powerful they can unwrite that verdict and bring him back into the world, just a few years later.

Did ter Borcht commit that murder himself – did he approve of it being done by someone else – was he horrified to find out? How did everything Itex was doing get blamed on just one guy? How do you think he feels about getting moved around like a chess piece by a megacorporation?


Sources

This is a story I've pieced together from many scraps of information.

Image credit: Caitlin Bergmann.

Some of the images here appear in paperback editions of the second book, and were also viewable on the main site in early 2007.

Some of these images were also posted on Fang's Blog in late 2006 and early 2007. Here are the relevant entries:

"This guy!!" [31 October 2006]. (I think the missing image was this article, but I'm not absolutely certain.)

"More info on the 'Soup Doctor'" [6 November 2006]. This article.

"More secret stuff." [14 November 2006]. This email.

"A stinky situation" [20 November 2006]. One of the images was this article.

"Exhibit A: Weirdos-R-Us" [3 January 2007]. This business card.

"Exhibit B: Flying Soup!" [3 January 2007]. This ticket stub.

Ter Borcht is also mentioned or alluded to in a few blog entries:

"And...we're BACK." [30 October 2006].
In the meantime, I just checked the IP address of where hairy wolf-boy was "posting" from. ... It's registered to the "Itex Corp., LLC" & some guy whose name I can't pronounce cause it's all foreign-exotic-sounding & stuff.
"Permission Slips and Field Trips." [6 November 2006].
Since [Nudge] took it upon herself to begin our little game of show-and-tell, I can share the rest of the printouts I found about "Dr. Soup," as Ig likes to call him. His name is just too darn tongue-tying to say more than once without seriously botching it up.
"Dear Fnick," [31 January 2007].
Now taking bets that Dr. Soup was at that hospital. Perhaps he was, I don't know, the German one who spat when he spoke. ...Or yelled. ...Or, just while standing still pondering the meaning of life.

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Last edit: 5 September 2021.