Is He, or Isn’t He?

Chapter Seven in “Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing“.

“I am not really sure he is my brother and I am not really sure he isn’t my brother,” I said. It did seem a bit absurd once I heard the words come out of my mouth. Charlie seemed to take my doubt in stride and waited for me to ponder it out.

“He looks a lot like him, but he doesn’t act like him. And he didn’t know anything about the time I nearly smacked him in the head with my front forks. I don’t think he’s my brother.”

The motorcycle accident came up in the basement. I was testing him and the guy who looked a lot like Dan failed. However, before I could call him on it, he tore into this plan to get back to the base, capture the weather machine, and keep the air force from turning it into a weapon.

“Kind of missed that part,” I muttered.

“‘What’s that?” Charlie said.

I caught Charlie up to the present.

Yes, the weatherman looked like a goner, but he rose from the bed and told me he wanted to capture the machine and stop the air force. He said all he had to do was get back to the base, sneak into the lab, and take it away. I presumed he meant to destroy it, but everything was happening so fast that I forgot to ask questions.

“The guy isn’t dead?” Charlie whispered. We were riding with five of the soldiers and they had already warned us to “shut our mouths.”

“No. In fact, he should be right behind us.”

The weatherman had just finished his story when I had to run outside to stop World War III. Before I left, I convinced Sally to take care of him and to do whatever he wanted. I now wondered if that was such a good idea. Sally counted on tips to make ends meet and she might have put off any field trips to the base. I glanced at my watch.

“Just after two,” I said to myself. “Sally should have finished the lunch rush.”

“I said shut up,” one the soldiers said. “Why are you talking to yourself?”

I glared at the soldier, but didn’t open my mouth again until we rolled into the base. We rolled to a stop. Charlie looked at me and nodded. We have been friends a long time and Charlie seems to understand me by the look on my face. He rose from his seat and lunged at me.

“You no good bastard,” Charlie shouted. “This is your fault.” He took a punch, which landed on my chin. I fell backward onto the floor. As I scrambled to climb up, two soldiers wrestled Charlie and pinned him against a tire.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Colonel Cox stood at the back of the truck waiting for an answer.

“These two haven’t followed a single command since we left Pretty Prairie, sir,” said one of the soldiers. “And now this one wants to fight.” He grabbed Charlie by the shoulder and stood him up.

“Put them in the brig until we have a chance to sort them out,” said Colonel Cox.

Three soldiers shoved me and Charlie into what amounted to chainlink cages. Each had a bed and a blanket. Where we were supposed to go to the bathroom, I didn’t know, but I wished I had asked. We could see each other through the chainlink and we were now alone.

“The weatherman is alive?” said Charlie.

“I think he has a few more lives left to live,” I said as I looked around the cages for a way out.

“Nice punch. I was hoping they would take us right to jail.”

“Anything else I can do?”

“You can look for a way out of here.” Charlie looked around his cell and the warehouse we were locked up in. There wasn’t a quick way out.

“I’m guessing that guy isn’t your brother?” said Charlie.

“Pretty sure. He does look a lot like him though.” I had decided there was no way the weatherman was Dan.

“You keep saying that like you hope it’s true.” Charlie did make a point. Losing Dan with no trace in Afghanistan had left me a bit lost. Not to mention my mom and dad, and yet, it was too much to hope for a happy reunion. Although, I did long for one.

Still, the weatherman looked off, and he had no memory of some of our key exploits as kids. Memory loss? I think I was grasping at straws.

“We need to figure out how to escape.” I looked around the room and tried to find a way to push way the fence or twist around the posts. It was pretty sturdy. The back of the cage pushed up to a wall and in the corner the fence was stretched like someone had already tried to kick through it. I decided it might be stretched enough to pull the fence away from the post. I pulled on the fence and tried to stretch it more.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” I said. “Charlie, look for a camera and see if we’re being watched.”

I turned over my bed to see if I could take off one of the legs and use it to break the fence. The bed was made of aluminum and the leg bent off after a little effort. I used it as a lever to pull away the fence from the post. I made progress and soon one of the fence wires broke. I tore into it with more fury and snapped a few more wires. 

“I don’t see any cameras focused on us,” said Charlie. “Are you sure?” There had to be at least one camera focused on the cells.

I grabbed onto the fence and pulled it away from the post. A small hole began to form against the wall. I pulled harder on the post trying to bend it in half. Soon, I could push my head through the hole. A couple of wiggles and I was outside the cell.

“You made swift work of that,” said Charlie. “Now get me out.”

I used the bed leg to work on breaking the lock holding Charlie in. It was a tough go and the lock refused to break. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an arm reach around me and drag me to the ground. There across from the cells was a hidden camera.

“Well Charlie, you missed one.” Charlie bounced away from the fence and judging from the look on his face he knew he had messed up.

The guard caught me off balance and slammed me into the chain link fence. As soon as he wrenched my arm around my back, a steady stream of blue-uniformed sentries filled the space between me and Charlie. 

They reached into Charlie’s cell and he stepped back holding his hands over his head. They had us and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

I pulled away and the guard held me as another brought down a baton in a swift thrust to my shoulders.

I let out a groan and everything went black.

I woke up in a large computer room with various people twisting knobs, staring at screens, and recording measurements on tablets. The guards had left me uncuffed and I rubbed my sore neck. In the center of the room, nurses were intent on taking care of the weatherman; my brother Dan.

His face was cleaned up and he looked like he had a bath. Colonel Cox and the boys must have found him sneaking back onto the base. From his neck down he wore a white jumpsuit. It was too white and I thought he was wrapped in a cloud. I thought about the storm, the torn up clinic, and Dan going off to the Middle East.

“I thought you were dead,” I said.

Dan failed to hear me. I was going to ask him again when the colonel boomed in behind me.

“Oh, he’s very much alive,” the colonel said as he walked around to block my view of the weatherman. “Only he’s not your brother.”

I sort of knew this already although I wanted to hope it was Dan. I pretended I wasn’t shocked.

“We’ll you had me fooled.”

“You know,” said the colonel. “We never even considered the two of you might run into each other.”

“It is a mystery,” I said. “I suppose you’ve cloned my sister too?”

“I wouldn’t call it cloning.” I scanned the room as the various scientists turned to look at me.

“More like artificial intelligence.”

© 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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