Trash and debris covered the floor leading to the lab. Nurses, guards, and other people covered in blood and gashes poured out of rooms lining the hall. We stumbled passed them and ran toward the center of destruction.
We turned a corner. I noted a considerable rip running through the center of the lab like a giant claw hammer had torn through the building. Pieces of paper, debris, and insulation floated where the ceiling used to be. I now went to the central area, where all the computers and Dan-clones had been standing.
On the far end of the room, Colonel Cox slumped against the wall and a smudge of blood showed where his head used to sit on his shoulders. There was no way he wasn’t dead.
The chest of the clone I once thought was my brother Dan, sat on the floor next to the colonel’s body. Wires, tubes, and fluid dripped out of the bottom. He had no legs. With an outstretched hand he motioned for me to come closer.
“He wanted me to kill you,” said the clone. “Use our collective mind to alter the weather and destroy you. I couldn’t do it. Our creator never wanted us to do evil. We only were designed…”
The clone stopped whirling and his mouth froze before he could finish his sentence.
“Designed to end a drought, time rain storms to optimize the growing season, make it possible to enjoy a snowstorm on Christmas Eve,” said a familiar voice.
I turned away from the clone and Colonel Cox to face a haggard version of my brother Dan. He had a bandage around his waist and was standing on crutches next to the nurse from earlier. Behind him, a gigantic cube rotated on a wall screen.
I wondered if it was really my brother.
“Come here, brother. Let me look at you,” said Dan. I hesitated. “Oh, I’m real,” he said. “I’m not one of these clones.”
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t you come home?”
“I wanted to. But I came back less of myself,” he said grabbing my arm. “I wandered around until I could pull it together. By the time I finished college, everyone believed I was dead. I decided it was better that way.”
“Mom would have taken you back in dead or alive,” I said. “Your death hit her real hard.”
Dan pulled me closer. My brother was very much alive.
“I understand none of this. Messing with the weather, tearing up Pretty Prairie, all those people dead. It makes no sense,” I said to my brother.
“I never wanted that,” said Dan. “Colonel Cox forced me to develop my invention into a weapon. In the lab, I wanted to make it rain,” he said. I stood feeling both happy and confused.
“It was a fluke. One minute I was tinkering at a university in Wisconsin and the next thing I was heading up an Air Force weapons program here in Kansas.”
“How did you get to be so smart?” I asked. The Dan I loved was more of a jock than a scientist. “Facing death in the desert changes your perspective,” he said. “And being forced to kill your little brother changes everything back.”
“We’ll, I’m glad you didn’t kill me,” I laughed. Charlie chimed in. “Me too. I don’t think rotting in a grave would have fit into my life of ignorant bliss.”
We all laughed.
I sat at the counter in the diner in Pretty Prairie waiting for Sally to refill my coffee. Farmers overfilled the place and my favorite waitress didn’t seem to notice me as usual. She was too busy handing out plates of eggs, bacon, and toast. I thought about reaching behind and filling my cup myself.
The bell on the door of the diner rang out and in slipped Dan and Charlie returning from filling the car with gas and stowing our things. Dan slapped me on the back.
“Best be going brother.”
“Yeah, after I refill my coffee.” Sally made it to my end of the counter holding the pot of black gold and looking as sassy as ever.
“Think you can give me a go cup?”
“Will you finally get the hell out of here?”
Charlie laughed. “I don’t think she ever liked you.” Sally smiled. “Oh, I like him. About as much as I like liver and onions.”
She handed me a Styrofoam cup and touched the back of my hand. A soft, flirtatious goodbye.
Just the way I like it.
Jake Rutledge returns in Jake Rutledge and the Acadiana Gator Treasure
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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