The Orphanage 5: Gibbons (musc)
“Nelway!” he called.
“Yes, sir,” snapped the Guard.
“Find someone to clean this up, and get me the man on duty.”
“Yes, sir,” stammered Nelway. “Sir?”
“What is it, Nelway?”
“What man on duty?”
“Whoever’s been watching the boys while we’ve been out.”
“But, sir,” the guard shuffled uneasily. “You ordered all personnel on the search—no exceptions.”
“Don’t tell me what I did and did not order. Are you telling me, these boys have been unsupervised all night?”
“Answer me, soldier.”
“Yes, sir. They have, sir. Just their floor supervisors, sir.”
“In other words, we left the lunatics in charge of the asylum.”
Gibbons looked out the gaping hole at the front lawn and the forest beyond. It was starting to get light. They had been gone for hours. Anything could have happened. “Nelway, round up a couple of men and do a bed check. Make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.”
“Yes, sir,” and the guard disappeared back out into the front yard.
What a disaster this was turning out to be. He shuffled over to his office and unlocked the door. Out all night and not a damn thing to show for it. At first it had been like chasing a God damned squirrel. The way that boy could move through the trees was phenomenal. They wasted hours combing the woods, until someone figured out he must have doubled back to the Orphanage. Of course, that insight had come too late. It was only moments later that the boy had come crashing out of the front door, fully realized. The young titan had blown right through his men and busted his way out into the forest. The growth wasn’t supposed to happen that quickly. Myers had a lot to answer for. Still wearing his radio he keyed it. “Powel!”
“Yes, sir,” came the instant reply.
“Where’s Doctor Myers?”
“On her way in, sir. She should be here any moment.”
“Bring her to me the instant she gets here.”
Gibbons collapsed behind his desk and flipped on his computer. There was an urgent message waiting for him. Apparently the boy had made it all the way to the city. He clicked on the link and watched as the sickly green infrared image filled the screen. The crawl at the bottom told Gibbons that the helicopter footage he was now watching was shot just over an hour ago. He looked at the picture and there he was, a colossus on the roof of a five story brick building, holding two people upside down over the edge, one with each hand. The scale of the kid was amazing. Looking at him compared to the two ordinary people he was dangling brought home to Gibbons just how massive he was. He had to be twice the height of his victims and his muscles, overdeveloped beyond all reason, swelled and bulged all over him whenever he made the slightest movement. The power that kid had was unbelievable. Suddenly he tossed his victims twenty feet into the air, but he caught them again on their way down, before they could take the plunge to the street. Now he was lifting them up and looking at them. They had gone completely limp; obviously they had fainted. The subject tucked one person under each arm and then leapt from the building top. Gibbons watched in awe as the kid landed on the street below, only bending his knees slightly to absorb the shock. Then he stood up and calmly walked over to a group huddled across the street. The crawl told Gibbons that the building was the 9th Street orphanage and the group was the evacuated inhabitants. The subject delivered his two captives to the displaced orphans and then turned his attention back to the building. The kid began pounding the building with his fists. Great chunks of brick and mortar began flying through the air as the young behemoth tore huge holes in the side of the orphanage. He paused for a moment and the reached up and grabbed the fire escape. He ripped a large section of it right off the building and began wadding it up like it was made from clothes hangers. And the look on the kid’s face, one of unabashed glee; it looked like nothing would make this kid happier than tearing down this building with his bare hands.
A set of flashing lights on a car told Gibbons that the police had arrived. This should be interesting. The two officers were out of the car, guns drawn in an instant. It looked like they might be shouting at the kid, but it was doubtful the boy could even hear them over the sound of buckling steel and exploding masonry. One of them fired into the air. That got the boy’s attention. He was looking over towards them now and they were obviously ordering him to submit. Gibbons doubted very much he would, and he was right. The kid still had the wadded up fire escape in his hands and he threw it at the red-headed cop, who jumped out of the way just in time. His partner started firing, but the pea shooter he had couldn’t really hurt the behemoth, but it did make him mad. The kid leapt across the street, quicker than a gazelle, and hit the firing cop with his fist. The cop went flying back about 10 yards and hit the side of a building. He was out for the count. The red headed cop then started firing at the kid. Didn’t these guys learn anything? The kid grabbed this guy and ripped the still firing gun out of his hand. After he turned the gun into a useless metal clump, he took the cop and tossed him back into his car. Then he pinched the metal around all the doors sealing him in. He had started back on demolishing the building when the cop started his car and gunned the engine. He was going to try and ram the kid.
The kid just stood there and let the car come at him. At the last second he reached out with both hands and caught the speeding vehicle. He lifted the whole thing, wheels still spinning, up over his head and then threw it down the street. It bounced and shook and kicked up sparks, before it finally came to a rest. It was impossible to tell what happened to the cop inside, but it didn’t look like he could have been too injured by the trip. Now if only he had the sense to stay in the car.
The kid, looking satisfied, returned to pounding holes into the side of the orphanage. Gibbons couldn’t help thinking how much this kid must have hated that place. He pulled up Mikey’s folder and started going through it. Suddenly he stopped and reread the section he was looking at. Mikey had never lived in this orphanage. In fact, it looked like Mikey had never even been to that city. What the fuck was going on here?
There was a knock at the door.
“Mr. Gibbons, sir?” said Nelway, nervously opening the door.
“What is it?”
“We finished the bed check, sir. All present and accounted for—except the subject, of course.”
“What? You’re sure?”
“Yes, sir. They’re all asleep. Probably don’t know anything unusual happened at all.”
“We got lucky.”
“Is Dr. Myers here yet?”
“She just arrived.”
“Send her in.”
Nelway disappeared and a moment later the busty middle aged doctor shuffled into the room.
“Doctor, come here and look at this,” ordered Gibbons.
She came around to the back of the desk and looked at the monitor. It still showed scenes of the kid ripping into the building.
“What do you make of that?” he asked.
“The subject looks like he has fully realized.”
“How is that possible?” asked Gibbons.
“It shouldn’t be, sir.”
“That doesn’t answer my question, Myers.”
“I can’t answer your question with out examining the subject. That’s the only way to know for sure.”
“Can you get your information from a post mortem?”
“Sir, you’re not thinking of…?”
“Do you have the canister ready?”
“Of course, but there is another option.”
“You mean knock him out? Then what? Look at him.”
The two of them watched on the monitor as the building began to buckle, and then collapse on itself.
“How would you suggest we confine him?”
“Exactly. Go and fetch the canister. The helicopter is coming for it within the hour.”
She turned to go. He stopped her with a word. “Doctor Myers?”
“Yes,” she said turning back.
“It’s a little late to get sentimental, isn’t it?”
“I wasn’t being sentimental, sir. Each of these boys represents a substantial investment. I simply hate to see waste.”
“Yes, well, there’s a time to cut your losses.”
“As you say, sir.” And she hurried from the room.
Gibbons returned his attention to the screen but the video was over. Another message had flashed up on the screen: I hope you’re satisfied. Gibbons smiled grimly. It was reference to a long standing debate he’d had with the higher-ups. He had always argued that the boys should be field tested. And now one of them had been. The only question that remained was: could he be stopped?
Gibbons returned his attention to Mikey’s file, the only remaining open window on his screen. Somewhere there had to be a connection to the 9th street orphanage, but what was it? He began looking through the other boys’ files and it didn’t take him long to confirm that only one of them had come from the now demolished building.
“Nelway,” he called into his radio. “Get in here.”
“Yes, sir,” said the nervous guard as he hurried into he room.
“Get Mr. Fishburn and bring him to me.”
“Mr. Fishburn… Oh, you mean Fish.”
“Yes, Fish. Bring him here.”
“Yes, Sir.” And Nelway disappeared.
Fish might hold the key. He might know why Mikey had chosen this particular target. He supposed that in the end it wouldn’t matter. The titan would be disposed of regardless. It was just that Mikey’s choice of target didn’t make any sense, and Gibbons hated it when things didn’t make sense.
In a moment Nelway was back holding a pile of sheets in his arms and looking paler and shakier than usual.
“Doing laundry, are we, Nelway?”
“N…n…no, sir. It’s just that Fish wasn’t in his bed sir. It was just sheets piled up to look that way.”
“He’s not there, sir.”
“Well, find him!”
“Yes, sir.” And Nelway vanished.
Gibbons grabbed his radio. “Powel!”
“Get all those brats out of bed. I want them all assembled in the front hall in ten minutes. Then take the role. Make sure they are all accounted for.”
Gibbons punched up the video again and looked closely at the shots of the young titan. Damn. The helicopter was too far away for a good shot of the face. He shut down the window, got up and left his office. Something was very wrong, very very wrong. When he entered the lab, Doctor Myers was looking over a large blue canister.
“Could one of these kids have started cascade without our knowing about it?”
“No, sir. That would be impossible.”
“I hope so, Myers, because we have at least twenty-eight of these boys under this roof, and the thought of them all suddenly blowing up into uncontrollable giants scares the crap out of me.”
“It shouldn’t, sir. As I said, it’s impossible.”
“Humor me, Myers. Say for the moment that it wasn’t impossible. How could it happen?”
“The only way one of the boys could enter the cascade phase would be if he missed his inhibitor shot—and we have documentation to prove this has happened only once. Or through use of the accelerant, and that would require your order, sir.”
Gibbons nodded. “And the accelerant would cause the boy to become fully realized in a matter of minutes, is that correct?”
“Yes, but we would have to administer it. The odds that one of them could blunder in here and successfully give himself a shot of the accelerant are astronomical. These boys wouldn’t have the knowledge or the skill to even understand what the accelerant was.”
“Even Mr. Fishburn?”
“Yes, for God’s sake, Fish. I know he was your little pet lab rat. Why you ever indulged his medical interests is beyond me.”
The doctor stood silently, obviously considering Gibbons’ question. “Maybe if he had the proper information, he could. But he doesn’t. Why are you asking me this?”
“There’s a good chance that behemoth that tore apart that orphanage was Mr. Fishburn.”
“How could you possibl—“
“I have my reasons. Do me the courtesy of checking your supply of accelerant.”
The doctor opened the glass front fridge and removed a tray of small bottles. She did a quick count. Gibbons caught the look of fear in her eyes as she counted the bottles again, this time more slowly.
“There are only twenty-nine,” she said. “We’re missing one.” She swallowed.
Actually, Gibbons was relieved. He had already concluded that the giant was Mr. Fishburn. He had been afraid there would be a good deal more of the accelerant missing. The fact that there wasn’t meant the situation was still controllable.
“Well, Doctor Myers, that’s one mystery solved. Take the remaining accelerant and lock it away somewhere safe.”
Doctor Myers nodded and hustled off with the tray.
Gibbons only hesitated a moment before he stepped back into the front hall. There they all were, the remaining twenty-eight of his charges, all sleepy eyed, all in various stages of undress. But he was relieved to see that there was no sign of cascade in any of them.
“Powel?” he asked without asking.
“They’re all here,” he said. “Except, of course, for Mikey and Fish.”
“Hmmm,” acknowledged Gibbons. There was something bothering him, something about the boys. What was it? He couldn’t put his finger on it. “Fine, Powel, fine. How many of them are scheduled to have their vitamin shots today?”
“Separate them out and send them to Doctor Myers immediately. Then return the rest of them to their rooms.” Gibbons didn’t wait for Powel to acknowledge his order before he started for his office. He made it two steps inside before he realized what had been bothering him about the boys. There was a huge hole in the wall where the front door used to be. No one had asked about it. None of them had even looked at it. He couldn’t believe that out of twenty-eight healthy teenage boys, not one of them was even a little curious about what had happened. But why should they be if they already knew? Those little cocksuckers already knew!
The sounds of a helicopter landing interrupted his thoughts and he looked out his window. They had come for the canister. Well, at least the little problem in the city would soon be solved. He went back to his monitor and once again watched the video of Mr. Fishburn tearing down the 9th street orphanage and completely humiliating the police patrol. And he had twenty-eight of these monsters under his roof, twenty-eight of them! And the odds were they all knew exactly what they were. He could still control this. Just as long as the boys kept getting their shots…
But what if he had missed something?
He picked up the phone and punched out a number. He needed reinforcements. What he really needed was the army, but he didn’t have the clout to arrange that. But he could get the National Guard. He had one or two favors he could call in. He wondered if they had any tanks. He hoped to God they had tanks. After seeing what Mr. Fishburn had done to that police cruiser, if the worst happened they would need them.
He was on the phone for an hour but it was finally arranged. They would be there late that afternoon. He had wanted them sooner, but that had not been possible. That left him several hours, where anything could happen. He grabbed his radio.
“Nelway!” he barked.
“Still no sign of him. sir,” came the reply.
“You still looking for Mr. Fishburn?”
“Just as you ordered, sir,” was the uncertain answer.
“Don’t tell me what I ordered. I want you to stop looking for Mr. Fishburn and resume your search for Mikey.”
“Mikey? But I thought—“
“Did I ask you to think, Nelway?”
“Good. Just do it.”
“Get Brad and bring him down to my office.”
Gibbons set down his radio and started pacing the room. Things still didn’t make sense. If the boys all knew, why were they still here? Surely they would have all taken the accelerent and headed off on their own personal power trips, just as Mr. Fishburn had done. Why didn’t they? There was something he was missing. What was it? Did they have some plan? Well, even if they didn’t, Gibbons did. What he was considering now was extremely dangerous, so he had better be certain it would work. But he had to do something, didn’t he?
There was a knock on the door.
Brad poked his head in. “You wanted to see me, Mr. Gibbons?”
“Yes, yes, Brad, come in.” Gibbons sat behind his desk but the boy remained standing.
“I understand you are going into the army in a couple of months.”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“That’s excellent Brad, excellent.”
“I wonder if you could tell me, what is the most important duty of any soldier?”
“Ah… I’m not sure I…”
“That’s ok, boy, this isn’t a test. The answer is loyalty. Loyalty and the ability to follow orders without question.”
“It is sir?”
“Absolutely. Do you think you can do that, Brad, follow orders without question?”
“Yes, sir, no problem.”
“Good. Good. You know, Brad, I think I can help you.”
“Help me, sir?”
“Yes. I can help you be one of the greatest assets the army has ever had.”
“Certainly. But first I need to know where your loyalties lie.”
“With my country, of course, sir.”
“Yes and that’s exactly the way it should be, once you’re in the army. But today I need you to be loyal to me and to The Orphanage. Can you do that?”
“I’ve always been loyal to you and to The Orphanage.”
“You know, Brad, that was exactly the right answer. So, you can tell me what’s going on.”
“Going on, sir?”
Gibbons looked carefully at Brad’s face. It was guileless and quite blank. If there was a plot, this boy knew nothing about it. “Never mind. Never mind. We’ll just move on to the next part. I need to see if you can follow orders without question.”
“I can, sir.”
“Good then get on your hands and knees and bark like a dog.”
“That sounded like a question, Brad.”
Gibbons was gratified to see Brad drop to his knees and start cavorting around like a dog, making bad barking noises.
“All right, Brad, that’ll do. Come with me.”
Gibbons made straight for the lab with Brad following him. When they entered Dr. Myers was just finishing giving Rob his vitamin shot.
“Is that all of them Myers?” asked Gibbons.
“Yes, sir. Rob, here, is the last.
“Excellent. Straight back to your room, Rob. No dawdling.”
“No, sir,” said Rob throwing a side glance at Brad as he hurried from the room.
As soon as he was gone, Gibbons addressed the Doctor. “Myers, I want to give this boy the accelerant.”
Doctor Myers looked shocked. “When did the order come through?”
“I’m doing this on my own authority.”
“But why? I don’t understand.”
“I have reason to believe the whole operation may be compromised. I’ve decided we need a little muscle on our side and I think Brad will fill the bill nicely.”
“Shouldn’t you check with—“
“I think you’ll find my authorization is all that is required. Give it to him.”
“Don’t be so timid Myers. I know you’ve been dying to try this. Well, here’s your chance.”
Doctor Myers looked uncertain but Gibbons knew she wouldn’t refuse the chance to see her work come to fruition. “Very well, sir. I’ll need Doctor Burns and Doctor Sawyer.”
“Fine. Fine, just get a move on.”
Doctor Myers picked up the phone and dialed. In a minute she was done. “They’re on their way.”
“How long is this going to take?”
“It’s a very complicated procedure. It needs to be monitored. I’ll need several hours at least.”
“Well, you can’t have several hours. I need this boy fully realized as soon as possible.”
Doctor Myers looked incredulous and Gibbons prepared himself for a barrage of arguments, but to his surprise, she simply said, “I suppose it might be possible to streamline the process. I’ll do what I can.”
Gibbons knew he was being humored, but for the moment he decided to let it go. He was fairly certain Doctor Myers had no concept of the urgent military aspects of his request, and being a medical professional he didn’t really expect her to. It was enough that he understood the situation and had the power to act.
“While we’re waiting for Doctor Sawyer and Doctor Burns, I can start the preliminaries,” said Doctor Myers. ”This boy needs a complete physical before we can proceed.”
Doctor Myers gestured to Brad. “Come with me, Brad.” She led the young man to the large examination table. “Please undress down to your underwear.”
The boy complied with out hesitation. No reason why he shouldn’t. He’d been through countless examinations in this room, most of which required this same state of undress. In a moment he was standing dressed only in his boxers.
“Fine, now hop up on the table.”
“This is one huge table, Doctor Myers. How come it’s so big?”
Doctor Myers shot Gibbons a look. “Hasn’t Mr.Gibbons explained the procedure?”
“Don’t you think a few words… to allow the boy to prepare himself?” Doctor Myers asked Gibbons.
Gibbons cleared his throat. “Brad, you’ve always wanted to be stronger, haven’t you?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Of course you have. What boy hasn’t? The procedure your about to undergo will help you do just that.”
“Oh yes. Quite large and powerful, virtually unstoppable. Would you like that?”
“Good. Good. Because, very shortly we may need someone who is large and strong and we’re counting on you to be that man. Do you understand?”
“Ok, Brad,” said Doctor Myers, I’m going to take your blood pressure now. You know the drill.”
As Doctor Myers gave her full attention to performing the physical, Gibbons faded back to the rear storeroom. He knew there was a refrigerator in there and logically that would be where Doctor Myers would have moved the accelerant. He was right, of course. He may not be a scientist but he knew how to fill a syringe, and he did it in short order.
Gibbons returned to lab just as Doctor Myers, stethoscope posed over Brad’s heart, asked the boy to cough. In Gibbons’ mind this whole physical was a waste of time. They monitored these boys so closely that when one caught cold, they knew a week in advance. Well, he was through waiting. He strode forward and gave Brad the shot in his arm.
“What the hell are you doing?” cried Doctor Myers.
“Cutting though a little red tape, Doctor.”
“Red tape? This is a highly complicated procedure. It needs to be closely monitored.”
“Under normal circumstances I’d agree with you but I need this boy now.” Gibbons stood back watching Brad intently. If the projections were correct, cascade should being instantly. But nothing appeared to be happening. Brad was just sitting on the edge of the table looking confused.
“Myers, what’s going on? Shouldn’t something have happened by now?”
“Y…yes. I don’t understand it. Maybe there’s some fluctuation in his metabolism. How do you feel, Brad?”
“Fine. The same.”
“Let’s give it a few minutes.”
But a few minuets later Gibbons was still looking at the fit but lanky Brad. “Myers, it’s not working.”
Doctor Myers pulled out her stethoscope and listened to Brad’s heart. Then she took his temperature and blood pressure. “There’s no sign of cascade.”
“I don’t know. If the boy had been properly monitored I might be able to tell you—”
“Don’t give me that. I want to know what went wrong and I want to know within the hour.”
“Within the hour?”
“That’s right, Doctor. Our lives may well depend on it.”
Gibbons went back to his office just in time to here his radio crackle to life.
“Mr. Gibbons, sir?”
“What is it Powel?”
“Patrol four has gone missing.”
“Missing? What do you mean missing?”
“They haven’t checked in and we are unable to raise them. Should we go look for them, sir?”
Gibbons thought for a second. That could only be Mikey. For some reason that kid was still in the area. He had been in cascade for about twelve hours now. He should be quite large, but nowhere near fully realized. But he still might have been able to overpower the patrol. In fact, it seemed obvious that’s what had happened. Gibbons didn’t want to send another patrol out and risk loosing any more men. This would be a good job for Brad—if Doctor Myers ever got her act together. Of course, there was always the National Guard.
“No, Powel, not yet. The National Guard will be here this afternoon. Let’s wait for them.”
“The Guard, sir?”
“That’s right. Oh and Powell, when they get here, you’re not to tell them anything, understand?”
“That’s right. Our work here must remain secret. Need to know, only.”
Good. Gibbons out.”
The phone rang. Gibbons answered it. “Doctor Myers?”
“Sir, it’s water.”
“What? What’s water? What are you talking about?”
“Someone replaced the accelerant with water.”
“What? All of it?”
“Yes, sir, every bottle.”
“Can you make more?”
“Of course. We’re already on it.”
“As fast as you can, Doctor.”
“But who could have done this?”
“It had to be one of the boys, maybe Mr. Fishburn, maybe not.”
“Fish? But why would he…?”
“It’s not important why, Doctor. What is important is these boys know what we’ve been doing to them and now they have the accelerant. The combination of these two facts makes me very, very nervous.”
“But if they have the accelerant, why haven’t they used it?”
“I don’t know. Children are so damn unpredictable.”
“Well, if they don’t use it soon, it won’t do them any good. Unless it’s kept refrigerated the accelerant will break down in just a few hours.”
“Doctor, that’s the first good news I’ve had all morning. Call me as soon as you’re ready.” Gibbons hung up the phone and keyed his radio. “Nelway!”
“Yes, sir. No sign of Mikey in the house and patrol four—”
“I know what happened to patrol four. Nelway, I need you to search the house.”
“Did I stutter?”
“No, sir. Who are we looking for this time?”
“Not who, what. I want you to look for medicine bottles, syringes, anything medicinal looking.”
“Start with the refrigerators.”
“Even the ones in the lab?”
“No, Nelway, obviously you can skip those. Now, get on it.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.”
No sooner did Gibbons set down his radio than the phone rang. “Yes, Doctor?”
“We’ll be ready to go in half an hour, sir.”
“Make it sooner if you can, Doctor.”
As he hung up the phone, Gibbons suddenly realized that he had been out all night in the woods and it had left him dirty and scruffy looking He had always felt a man in control looked in control and right now he didn’t look in control. A half hour would give him a chance to grab a quick shave and shower and change into some fresh clothes and then maybe he could finally get something done.