That’s when I recognized it. They dressed Dan in a pure white cloth suit covering up a series of tubes, wires, and circuits. He wasn’t my brother! He was just an android made to resemble him.
“Why does he look like Dan?” I roared at the colonel.
“He was a good as anyone,” Colonel Cox answered. “We needed a face of a person already dead. It didn’t matter who. Your brother popped up.”
In fact, all the scientists in white coats looked like Dan. There must have been six or seven.
“Why so many?”
“The whole thing is a secret experiment,” said the colonel. “Your presence puts a crimp in the plan. We will have to figure out what to do with you.”
Colonel Cox stared at me and in our locked eyes I realized he would not let me go back to Pretty Prairie.
“What have you done with Charlie?” I realized I hadn’t seen my friend since the fight outside our cell. Even if he was with me, I didn’t expect he was going to just walk out of here either.
“He’s entertaining my guys,” said the colonel. “He’ll be along soon.”
Dan rose from his chair and walked over to the colonel. He looked calm, and I wondered if his protest with the flag had been an act.
“I feel much better now,” Dan told the colonel. “I remain in your service.”
“What is he, a slave?” I shouted at Cox. “The only reason I’m in this mess is because I believed him when he said you were trying to turn the weather into a weapon. Plus, he looked like my brother.”
“Amazing what a little tuneup and a computer wipe can do to make you more than willing to press on,” said the colonel. “Are you seeing what’s going on here?”
Actually, I did, and it made me mad.
“We will keep testing this weapon and no one will be the wiser,” said the colonel. “Guards. Take him and clean him up. I don’t want to see him again.”
The guards pushed me all the way down the hall, passed the weight room, around the corner through another narrow hallway, until we arrived at an infirmary where I found Charlie. He was sitting on a raised gurney with a nurse swabbing blood off his right eyebrow.
“It looks like you took it harder than the other guy,” I said. Charlie winced as the nurse dabbed on some iodine. His left arm was in a sling, and he resembled a torn raggedy doll.
“I don’t know why they are fixing you up,” I said. Charlie frowned, and I was honest with him. “I get the distinct impression they plan to kill us.”
“No, we will not kill you,” said a blue-shirted sergeant. “We will let a tornado do that.” He laughed. Charlie and I did not join him. In fact, it was the first time I recognized fear in Charlie’s eyes. “Tornado?”
“Yeah, we’re testing the weather machine on you next.”
“We’ve already had it tested on us, so we’re good,” I retorted. The sergeant just looked at me failing to laugh. He did not see the irony of my previous experience in Pretty Prairie. He turned away to talk to the other guards.
“Well, we should look at you too,” said the nurse in a pleasant tone like she was stitching up two farmers rather than sending a couple guys to their doom.
“I’ll need you to show me your arm, hon.” I waited and hesitated. She smiled. I did as she told me and watched the airmen in blue.
The biggest guard bummed a cigarette off the littlest, and they stood in front of a door talking. They reminded me of that cartoon where the alpha dog prances around with the little dog yapping and jumping after him. The little guy was trying too hard to laugh at the big guy’s jokes.
The nurse placed an electrode on my left temple, my neck, my arm, and my chest. She had also dressed Charlie with wires coming out of his shirt. I suppose she was prepping me for the science project they planned to conduct on Charlie and me.
When she had finished dabbing my cuts, the nurse took the gauze and iodine and danced around the guards. She smiled, pretended to laugh at the airman’s joke, and hurried out the door.
That left me and Charlie alone. I felt rotten and Charlie appeared worse.
“So what’s the plan? Drive us out into the prairie, tie us up, and wait for the tornado to pound us without a weather warning?” Both guards looked through me and went back to laughing.
“Seriously. You don’t think we’re going with you without a fight?” I taunted them with the hope they would come closer.
The airman weighed in. “Yeah, we will strap you down like guinea pigs and wait for the storm. Now sit over there and be quiet.”
“I hardly think you can hold me down, let alone the little guy.” The small guard bristled at my taunt and started toward us. “Look dude, I’m the one with the gun.”
He had a point. Charlie and me only had our fists and each other. Still, I thought I could take him. I inched toward the guards. Charlie stood with me. Both of the guards reached for their holsters and told us to stop.
“Come one step closer, and we’ll shoot,” said the big guy. It appeared he hoped we would rush them.
“Look. We’re tired, we want to go home, and we’re done with today,” I said. “If you want to shoot us, do it. Shooting us would be a relief.”
The larger guard laughed and the little guy joined in. I didn’t care at this point. The whole mess wore me out.
“Sorry, I got you into this.” Charlie shrugged his shoulders and stood taller.
Before we could start a fight, the room shook, and we fell to the floor. Dust and smoke rolled into the room and a massive explosion took out the lab.
I jumped up, and reaching through the dust, grabbed Charlie by the arm. Together we leaped over the guards and ran toward the lab.
Part One – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Two – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Three – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Four – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Five – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Six – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Seven – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Eight – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
Part Nine – Jake Rutledge and the Guy with Bad Timing
— wordsmithholler (@wordsmithholler) July 11, 2018
© 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.
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