Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Return of Third Person Thursday - Exceptional: Book 2, Part 7

I thought, as many of you probably did, that this story had just disappeared and fallen into oblivion. But here is finally another chapter, nearly the last, of our continuing tale, Exceptional.

Follow this link to read Book One. Follow these links to catch up on Book Two if you don't remember where we left off: Book 2, Part1; Book 2, Part 2; Book 2, Part 3; Book 2, Part 4; Book 2, Part 5; Book 2, Part 6.

Now, without any further ado: Book 2, Part 7...

Dave knew time was of the essence. He knew he might have been the only one who suspected anything was wrong. The guilt he felt tore away at him. Still, he couldn’t run any more and had to walk the final mile.

He had been worn out before, but he had never experienced splitting in both of his sides. He had also never run to the point of throwing up, which he had already done twice during this jaunt. Just as Dave began to wonder if the two piles of vomit he’d left steaming on the asphalt had frozen by now, he saw the warehouse and stopped.

It looked far less menacing and super villain lair-like than Dave expected it to. There were no guards clad in black, leather, identity-concealing outfits. There was no electric fence. It wasn’t on a hilltop where a thunderstorm seemed to constantly swirl behind it. It was just a series of long brick buildings which looked unoccupied and left to crumble. Aside from a newer wrought iron fence around it whose gate had been left wide open, nothing would have suggested that Dave would find anyone inside.

“Please don’t be here, James,” Dave said to himself. He entered the gate and began to jog through the parking lot.

Dave tried to reach the outer wall of the nearest building as fast as possible. It occurred to him while he was in the center of the massive, wide open space that there may be surveillance cameras. Evil super villains had surveillance cameras, didn’t they? Of course they did. The fact that Dave didn’t see any only meant they must be extra small and well hidden, suggesting that they were even higher quality. They probably even had laser motion detectors that triggered some sort of trap, or at least the release of guard dogs. Most likely large, rabid guard dogs.

He began to panic, and breathe heavier. Dave tried to break back into a run. This only forced him to pause quickly and dry heave (as it seemed nothing was left in his stomach) before he was able to continue along the fence line.

Upon advancing far enough that the corner of the nearest building was a straight ninety-degree angle from the fence, Dave made a break for it. He closed his eyes and held his hands out in front of him as he sprinted, stopping only when he felt cold brick on his palms at which point he spun around quickly and flattened himself as flat as he could against the wall.

Picturing machine-gun turrets strategically positioned along the roofline, Dave inched along the brick wall, keeping as much of his back as possible in contact with it with his eyes squinted to near complete closure. At one point, Dave opened his eyes wider to look around and realized that in the daylight, should anyone happen to drive by and look over, as his position was easily visible from Third Street, he would have looked like a complete fool.

But he was a living fool whom, up to this point, had managed to avoid deadly automated machine-gun fire. This was all the consolation Dave needed to avoid deviating form his wall groping technique.

As he reached the next corner of the building, Dave poked his head around several times before spinning and gripping the adjacent wall just as he had the last one. He advanced slowly again, sidestepping to his right and feeling rough brick behind his hands until he felt nothing with his right hand.

In staring straight ahead, Dave had failed to notice that he had reached a doorway. The great metal door was open and the inside was dark. Dave ducked into the building and hid quickly behind the open metal door. He peeked through the crack, near where the massive hinges clung to the wall. In the distance, what seemed like miles away, Dave could see a light.

Dave felt a sudden urge to crouch down behind the door and remain there until somebody found him. The light in the distance seemed like it wanted him to go to it. Dave could almost hear its sinister voice beckoning him to advance and be devoured by some unholy mutant creation. He could picture it rearing onto its hind legs and ripping him limb from limb.

But then, he had also pictured machine gun turrets. And surveillance cameras. And a lava moat and highly trained ninja guards.

Yet here he stood, beyond all of those obstacles he had never encountered. He was in the same building where he was certain his best friend had met danger. And he shuddered to think that he had just considered curling up into a ball and doing nothing about it.

He almost got me killed, Dave thought, but he also took a bullet for me.

Dave stepped out form behind the large metal door and started walking, slowly toward the light. He scanned constantly all around him as he did. Then he wrapped his hands firmly around a nearby two by four and whispered to himself, “This ain’t no God damn comic book.”

James awoke violently with the stinging of his left cheek and the jerk of his head.

“You have slept long enough, boy,” Dr. Caine said as he stood before him, rubbing the palm of his own hand, apparently sore from slapping James in the face.

Before he could take in his surroundings or even think, James attempted to lunge at the Doctor. It was no use. Thick steel cables were wrapped around his wrists, leaving him attached upright to the wall behind him, suspended above the floor.

“You are strong,” the doctor said and chuckled, “but not that strong. Not one of your kind has been that strong.” He then removed his glasses and polished the lenses.

“I’m strong enough to make you sorry for whatever it is you think you’re doing,” James growled and attempted again to pull free from the wall. Even though he knew it was no use, James felt that thrashing against the restraints from time to time might at least intimidate Dr. Caine. Instead, the doctor smiled at James, shook his head and replaced the glasses on his face.

“So strong, so talented,” Caine whispered, more to himself than James, “yet so na├»ve.” Then he raised the volume of his voice and spoke to his young captive. “You could have really been something. The evolution of your kind has occurred at such an astoundingly rapid pace with you being the pinnacle…thus far.”

James broke his glare from the doctor and looked around the room. This was somewhere he had never been before, though it still smelled like the warehouse. The room was small and cramped. There were no windows, yet it was better lit than the rest of the warehouse, with long fluorescent lamps dangling from above.

“I imagine that if you had been allowed to reproduce for further generations, they may have proven to be even more skilled, more powerful.” As the doctor spoke, he seemed to look at a far off object somewhere over James’ head and then his eyes met James’ as he continued, “Alas, I seem to have run out of time.”

James continued to try and take in the details of the room. He had to remind himself to slow down. In his rage, he was looking around too quickly to be able to process anything he was seeing. Or smelling. There were rows upon rows of jars of blood. They covered an entire tabletop.

“I’ve grown tired of all of this. Of all of you. My health no longer affords me the luxury of studying you. It is time for action, as I knew one day it would be.”

The walls of the small room were covered in yellowed papers with handwritten notes and equations filling every inch of them. Attached to some of the papers were black and white photographs. Even these had notes scribbled in the corners and even over the faces of the people featured in them.

“But my patience has not gone unrewarded. You see, boy, I have waited and worked upon my assignment for longer than you could possibly imagine. And it would seem the gods have smiled upon me by sending me you and your father just when I needed to find you most.”

“What did you do to him?” James screamed. “Where’s my dad?”

Doctor Caine shook his head again and tsk-tsk-ed James. “And here I thought you had at least looked around the room enough to notice my handiwork. I thought you had at least smelled him by now.” Caine pointed to James’ left.

Twenty feet away, on the same wall, James saw his father hanging upside down with all manner of tubes running in and out of his body. From his arm ran a tube, thicker than James thought it ought to be, and the tube was filled with blood. Following the path of the tube revealed to James where all those jars of blood on the table had come from.

“Dad!” James shouted and the tears welled in his eyes. “Daaaaaaad!”

The laughter from the doctor started quietly. It even seemed as if Doctor Caine was trying to stifle it at first, trying to hold it back in order to keep from insulting James. But eventually its volume increased. He laughed louder and louder and it echoed off the windowless walls of the small room. The doctor laughed uncontrollably, coughing into a handkerchief as he did so, leaving dark red blood soaking into the white cloth.

James stared at him and wished he had the heat vision Dave had wondered about. Had James been able to free himself at that moment, there was no doubt that he would have killed Doctor Caine where he stood.

Dave reached the pool of light in the middle of the darkened warehouse. The two by four was cocked behind his head like a baseball bat and he was more than ready to hit somebody in the head with it.

But there was no head to hit.

He looked around in disbelief, certain that James must have come to meet with the Doctor and that was why he had gone off the grid. Something bad must have happened, otherwise James would have responded to his texts, at least to request to be left alone.

So why was he standing in the middle of this creepy building, ready to smash somebody’s face in, without anyone to save?

Convinced that he must have missed the obvious clues that would explain to him exactly where James was, Dave kept looking around the room. But nothing sprang out at him. There was no neon sign pointing out the direction he was to take. Dave recalled James’ stories of how the things he smelled seemed to show him a trail he could almost see.

Just for the hell of it, Dave sniffed the air around him.

“Didn’t think so,” he said aloud. “Worth a shot.”

Dave set the plank of wood down on a nearby desk and sat heavily in the chair.

“Where are you?” he asked himself, again, out loud and leaned forward, his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. “Where the hell are you, James?”

Suddenly Dave thought he heard something. It sounded like a far away laughing. No, coughing. No, laughing. Definitely laughing. But where was it coming from?

Dave rose from the chair in a crouch and began trying to find the source of the sound. He walked around slowly, sometimes moving toward the mysterious laughter, sometimes moving further away. Eventually, it became clear that the noise was coming from somewhere lower to the ground.

Dave dropped to his hands and knees and crawled on the floor, which he had not previously realized was filthy. The sound of the laughter seemed to be coming from beneath the very chair he had been sitting in. As he got closer, he noticed a large vent, like a cool air return, and upon placing his ear next to it, it was obvious that the sound was coming from somewhere below him.

“Now where the hell does this lead?” Dave wondered as he sized up the vent.

James tensed his hands around the steel cables that wrapped around his wrists. He had never been angrier in his life and he hoped to harness that anger into Hulk-like strength. As Doctor Caine’s laughter gave way to a raspy, wheezing cough, he focused on the old man and pulled with all the energy he could muster.

Nothing.

James hung his head and asked quietly, ““Why are you doing this?”

“My reasons are beyond you. They are above you.”

“Who do you work for?” James pressed.

“Who do I work for?! You dare ask me who I work for? I answer to no one! I answer to a higher power! Higher than the power you assume to represent! This has been the problem with all of you. Generation after generation, you have all thought yourselves as chosen. You all thought yourselves better than the rest. Your abilities were not given to you by divine rite! They were given to you by man!”

Doctor Caine ripped a type written page from the wall and thrust it in James’ face. You were an experiment. Your father, his father and his father before him. You are all man made!”

“I never asked for this,” James said. “Not for any of it.”

“Nor do you deserve it. My people…MY people! We deserve it. We were the master race. We were the chosen ones. The Fuehrer promised it to us! To me!”

The doctor coughed into his handkerchief again and leaned on the table to keep himself upright. He began to speak again and choked on his own blood, which he then violently spat to the floor near James’ feet.

“Then your kind came along. You destroyed everything. The Third Reich rose. We had the world in our grasp.”

He advanced on James and held his palm to his face, pointing his finger into it. “Right in the palm of our hand. Just where it belongs. And then the scales tipped. We were the chosen race and man created a new race. A new race to counter our race. Our chosen race!

“You and all those like you are abominations. You are against nature. And for decades, it has been my pleasure to hunt you down and eradicate you. The only reason your father remains alive is because I require his services a while longer. I am in need of blood and I initially planned to harvest yours, but that hardened skin of yours has made that impractical. So you will die instead of your father.”

“You’re keeping him alive?”

“For some time, yes,” Caine responded. “Until I can replace my blood with his. My hope is that the blood will heal me. You see, the blood is where your power lies. When I have enough blood, I will kill him as well.”

“And if it doesn’t heal you?”

“Then at least I shall take the pleasure in knowing that I have rid the world of your kind. That your bloodline dies with you, son.”

“I’m not your son,” James growled. “Don’t ever call me your son.”

They met eyes again and Caine smiled. The blood from his lungs remained on his yellow teeth as he grinned at James.

“You are most certainly not my son, boy. Were you my son, you would have succeeded. You would not have shown the very same weakness that you have all shown.”

“What weakness is that?”

“Pride. Your egos have left you believing that no mere mortal can harm you, that you are above the rest of us. Better. Untouchable. I have killed dozens of you throughout my life and each and every one has come right to my doorstep. They have trusted that they are unable to be harmed. And each time, it proved to be their demise. Just as it is about to be yours.”

Caine walked to the table with the jars of James’ father’s blood and, from beside it, wheeled a tank of gas. It looked similar to the tank James had assumed he was taking oxygen from earlier, but this tank was red while the other had been green. And the skull and crossbones symbol on the side was unmistakable.

“You talk about weakness?” James shouted as he felt himself becoming very afraid. “You are weak. You kill people who are better than you because you can’t stand it. You can’t bear to have anyone out there who might be better or stronger than you. That’s why you lost. You thought you were better than everyone else.”

“WE WERE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE!” Blood sprayed from Doctor Caine’s mouth as he screamed at James. “WE DESERVED THE WORLD (Cough, Cough) AND WE WERE PREPARED TO TAKE IT! (Hack-ack-ack) NOW, NONE REMAIN WHO WOULD TAKE IT (wheeeez) BUT ME AND I INTEND TO…”

At first, James had no idea what it was, but something had fallen from the ceiling on top of the doctor. When James looked up, he noticed the large grate from an overhead vent was missing. When he looked down, the grate lay atop the doctor and atop the grate lay Dave.

“Oh, crap,” Dave groaned and rolled over. “That is not at all how I planned it.”



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