Persistence of Memory
"So, my experiments didn't render Ryan Carver infertile after all," Jack's Dad said as I woke up. I don't remember how he got me to wherever this is, but the creepy mad scientist shtick was in full effect. I was strapped to a wooden chair, like a desk chair with arms and all. The bindings were apparently cast off remains of leather belts, thick and sturdy. I didn't need to tense against them to know they were very tight and not likely to budge. That and there were two on each forearm, at the elbow and wrist, so like, there was no way I could gain any leverage. My legs were free, if not more than a little sluggish. I was still a bit dazed from the hit to my head. The pain throbbed all in one place, like right over my right ear. I just knew there was a bump there the size of tea kettle.
"Where am I? I want my mom!" I tried to shout, but couldn't summon the air for it yet. I probably sounded weak as a kitten trapped in a rowboat on a lake.
"You're in my laboratory," he said, his back mostly to me. There was some kind electro-zappy thing like you see in old monster movies between us. He was mixing some chemicals, doing like careful measuring and stuff, pouring powder into liquid and stirring. I couldn't really see all of what he was doing because I was having trouble keeping my head held up and level. My eyes could focus, but it was like they didn't want to. Anytime I tried to look from near to far I got tremendously dizzy, which is quite an accomplishment when you're sitting down.
"I'm gonna hurl," I protested weakly, hoping that maybe he'd loosen my bonds and show me to a bathroom. Maybe from there I could figure out a great escape.
"I highly doubt that, Master Carver. You already emptied your stomach in your aunt's back yard. Do forgive me for not putting the connection together sooner. I thought you were just another of Jack's projects, like the sick little birds he fed back to health, or that feral cat whose leg was broken and Jack set and cast it. Just another stray that needed fixing. My Jack is good for that."
He came around and saw how I was half leaning over my lap, trying to shake off the cobwebs. In his gloved hands, he held a wide bottom flask like you use in chemistry experiments in school, only this one was bubbling and belching up whitish smoke without a burner under it. The liquid inside was some kind of green, which is only a best guess because I couldn't really see it too well. I did notice all kind of old timey computer cabinets, lining one wall.
"But you, oh, you, dear boy, are an amazing creature. You should not exist."
"Years ago I knew your father. He among many others, were reluctant patients back when I still practiced medicine. There had been a breakout of influenza, you see. Nasty strain. Fortunately I had already brewed the appropriate counter-virus at the time that I released the influenza into the high school water supply."
"You did what?" I heard myself say. I couldn't be sure if I was really hearing this. Did he just admit to making a virus that he on purpose made kids ingest in school? That's kinda fuckin' evil. He couldn't really do that, could he?
"Oh yes. It had to be done. I needed the raw material. Being the only doctor who could actually treat the illness successfully made it very convenient. It was such a tricky illness after all, difficult to manage, with so many stages and procedures necessary to ensure recovery.
"So I harvested from my young patients. And I managed to get samples from some of the best and brightest in the area. It cost most of them half their generative organs, and two regrettable deaths, but science must march on. So you see, chances are very slim that you would have been born at all. Much less survive. Mutations rarely breed true."
"Mutation?" I was beginning to get the feeling that Jack's dad was fully off his nut. More importantly, he was a fucking mad scientist. And here I was strapped to a chair in his secret hall of weirdness.
"I did more than harvest testes and ovaries from my young patents, you see. I enhanced them. Oh, sure, there were some that didn't survive, some had other adverse reactions to my treatments and were altered for life, genetically mangled, if you will. But your parents, oh my! Such robust genetics. Why, I'm willing to bet you're a very agile and strong lad, quick to bounce back from injury, impressive hand and eye coordination, all the things that made your father such a gifted athlete and your mother a student athlete ahead of her time as well. If they would have let her compete with the boys, I'm sure she would have thrived, after her recovery."
"You screwed around with my parents' junk?"
"That is such a puerile and simple way of looking at it, Master Carver. Human eugenics is no easy matter, even with the computing power and instrumentation available today. Not like back when I started, back in the glorious days of… but why bore you with my history," he said, placing the flask in front of me on some kind of large stainless steel table.
"What are you going to do to me?"
"First, study you. Take a sample perhaps." His grin was enough for me to bring my knees together. If he meant he was gonna cut off one of my balls by saying that… I didn't want to think about that.
"Then I might see what you can truly do. You are the first generation of that failed experiment to come into my awareness. The fact that you came into contact with my current experiment gives me ideas of ways to combine the two. I only wish there were other resultants from the first run to compare you with."
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I'm sure by now you have realized that Jack isn't my genetic offspring. Shrapnel made certain that wasn't a possibility, oh, many, many years before your parents were even twinkles in their father's eyes. No, that path is denied me. But the great work must go on. So, we do not resemble each other at all. In fact, I have no attachment to the boy. He is interesting, and he has advanced my work immensely. But he is not precious to me."
"He is to me," I mumbled, angrily. The pain in my head was a focusing point now. It helped me clear the remaining cobwebs, take better stock of what was around me and what he was saying. If I got out of here, anything he told me might be really interesting for the police to listen to.
"But you are a smart boy, aren't you? Coming from such intelligent as well as athlete stock, how could you not be? If only I'd had this technology in 1930. Oh, the world would be such a much better place, free of inferior genetics. I would have found a way to expunge the mongrel races from history, and make a glorious utopia of purity."
"What kinda Nazi bullshit are you talking about?'
"Silence!" he shouted and backhanded me real… real hard. My left cheek stung and my vision had the dark red splotchies dancing around. I felt my mouth drop open at that slap, my teeth sort of feeling dry. "You know not of what you speak, child! My work then is nothing compared to what I can do now!"
He moved towards the nearest computer cabinet, pointing to it almost dramatically. He turned back to me with a wild look peering through his enormous coke bottle glasses.
"You see this? Do you know what this is? You call him Jack. But his real name is this," and he pointed to a series of words in a foreign language, and he read it off. "Jugend Animieren Computer-Kampfer. Ah, but you don't speak proper German, do you? The words translate to, in your mongrel tongue, Youth Animate Computer Combatant. Jay, Ay, See, Kay. Jack. He is not a boy. He is the most perfect future soldier."
"Jack's not like that."
"Oh, you only know what he is, not what he can be. What I can make of him." He turned round staring at the computer banks, gesturing expansively. "You see, all of Jack's experiences and programming bleed into this twice a week. He literally downloads everything that he's learned into this. Every book he reads and skill he learns, every experience.
"And it goes both ways," the crazy scientist said, turning back to me and pointing up as if he had to prove a point and silence me with that gesture all at once. "I have used this to directly input into his mind abilities that normal humans can only dream of. His body is virtually an analytic instrument of its own, programmed daily to precision that no ordinary human could ever achieve.
"He is the perfect spy, the perfect soldier, following every command, learning tasks and skills with such fluidity and ease. He can estimate distance, trajectories and ballistics, angular rotation, elapsed time, temperature, even density, pressure and mass to within the tiniest of variances, all with only the aid of his physical senses alone. No instrumentation needed. He can even accurately predict weather phenomena and energy outputs of electromagnetic radiation, just with his sensory input alone. And with your genetic potential and the technology I perfected in Jack…"
"You'll what?! Rule the world?"
"Given time, yes," he said, grinning broadly. "And I have plenty of time. From the samples I've recovered over the years, I have found the fountain of youth. Sadly, my body cannot replicate the processes that happened in your father's body. And I ran out of the elixir I garnered from his testicle nearly twenty years ago. But I have refined the process, and you have two specimens I can harvest for that, among other things. I can even clone your testes and continue to make the elixir indefinitely. Once I have time again, I can mass produce soldier clones with your genetic advantages and Jack's intellectual advantages."
"You really are a sick twist, aren't you? Hate to break it to you, Headcase, I'm not as great as you think I am. My reflexes aren't all that. And I'm not some muscle bound freak. And you're really wrong about Jack, too. He's not a soldier, he's not even aggressive."
"Soldiers and assassins have the same starting points, boy. But I wouldn't expect a soft, pampered American child to understand. You are all a gaggle of mongrel underachievers. You mix races and cultures with reckless abandon; you sully your own uniqueness and embrace the doctrine of non-competitiveness. Every Futball player gets a participation trophy, basketball games are played without a score being kept. What nonsense! You might as well expect exceptionalism from a fish on dry land than see an American teenager even put forth effort on anything with value. Just sit behind your video games or text messages or wander aimlessly in shopping malls. Your people are pathetic. You are weak.
"And you, sadly, exemplify them. You have no idea of the gift I've given you, through your father and mother. But that's okay. You wont have to worry about it."
"What does that mean?" I said, feeling my surly nature starting to rise. He'd in one turn praised me and then tried to cut the legs out from under me. And he had done things to my parents, years ago. And he was doing things to Jack. And he was about to cut off my nuts to make himself immortal or something like it. Although, I have to think that if immortality came at the price of still aging while you lived forever, he might want to re-think things a bit.
Still, this guy was talking about things like some kind of bad science fiction movie villain. He didn't have that odd accent thing that gets over-emphasized in like world war two movies, but he was acting and talking like the Nazi bad guys from those movies. Or from like all kinds of terrorism and comic book stuff. Definitely the closest thing to super-villain status as I've ever come across. After all, he wanted to cut off my balls. That's kinda evil, in my book.
I had to do something, and quick. Information was key at this point, so my best bet was to keep him talking. If his mouth was running, he wouldn't be focused on slicing open my jewel sack and stealing my pearls. At least I hoped he wasn't skilled enough to do both at the same time.
And somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but worry about Jack. I mean, if this maniac was a) strong enough to backhand me a couple dozen yards, b) capable of all the stuff he'd already admitted to, and c) crazy enough to continue… I mean if all that were true, where was Jack and what had this nut job done to him?
Part of me wanted Jack to come in and save the day. Part of me wanted him to run for cover so this bastard never got his meat hooks into him again. Part of me wanted to just rip my way out of the chair like some comic book hero and beat the mad out of this so-called scientist.
But most of me was just scared and trying to buy time any way I could.
"It means, dear boy, that soon enough we will know whether you are truly exceptional, or just another weakling. I do hope for the former. Otherwise it would mean that much of my work would have been for naught. Your father was a young god. Are you just a bad apple fallen from his tree, or a demi-god in your own right?"
"You'll never find out!"
"Science always finds out, Master Carver. Soon enough, you'll see."
"I wont help you. And I wont help you hurt Jack."
"You wont have any choice." He turned and picked up the bubbling, fuming glass flask. "And once my formulations have completed, we will begin. I think we'll start with some electrical impulse musculature tests," he grinned and I felt like Halloween had come early from the wicked glow to his eyes when he bared his teeth.
"What the fuck does that mean?" I said, feeling my mouth dry out a little more.
"It means we shall use electricity to directly stimulate your muscles to test their strength." He paused, looking at several bottles on the shelf before selecting one. "It will not be a pleasant experience for you, I'm afraid. But it shall serve two purposes for me. It will tell me exactly what your limits are, and it will tire you out completely. All of that teenage vigor, used against itself, heh heh heh. A shame it will likely fracture bones, rip muscle tissues beyond repair and likely cause some irreparable neurological damage, but," he said, putting the flask down as he poured the contents of the bottle in, causing the liquid to swirl in a dance of sickly green and purple. "But it's not exactly your mind I'm keeping you around for, is it."
"History is written by the victors, dear boy. When the history is written of this moment, your point of view will not be present. A luxury that my former allies and leaders did not have."
"There's a reason for that, you freak!"
"Oh, surely you are about to tell me that only the good win out? Yes? That those with right on their side always conquer?" he chuckled, eerily. "Pathetic. You have seen far too much Scooby-Doo. If right always wins, why do so many so-called good people suffer? Why are they hurt and maimed and murdered yet the perpetrators go free. No, silly child, there is no help coming for you. After all, you are a known loner, and even now, no one even suspects you are missing. No one knows where you are, nor will someone come crashing through my door to save the day. Even if they do come here, they will not find you. We are quite safe from your notions of superiority. Face that truth, boy. And make your peace with whatever you believe in."
He started walking off, leaving me to stare at the swirling liquid in the flask as it continued to belch up puffs of some white mist, bubbling away. The green and purple chemicals were becoming something not quite clear, with some flakes of something dark dropping to the bottom of the flask.
My head might have been getting more focused, but I still felt like everything was dulled. There was a throbbing in my temples and my vision seemed to be swimming between focusing long and short. My stomach felt loose, like all my insides were going from too big for the space inside me to too small, over and over again. My tongue felt thick and dry, like a car washing sponge left in the sun a few days.
So when he started walking off, I felt like I was drifting. I panicked. Who wouldn't? So, since I was tied down, groggy and hurting, I reached out with the only thing I had available. My voice.
"JACK!" I screamed, although it sounded weird coming out of my body. I felt something crunch a little at my temple, right where most of the pain was. I don't know how many times I screamed his name, alternating it with help's and curses that probably didn't make much sense. Eventually, my screaming turned into crying, my whole body just feeling so weird and trembling and chilled.
I know now that some of that was the blow to the head, and some of it was the adrenaline hitting and fading while I screamed. I know now that the basement casing stones around Jack's house were reinforced with poured concrete and sealed with a layer of rubberized latex, Mylar sheeting and two layers of fiberglass insulation. In short, no one was ever going to hear me screaming from outside the house unless they were basically laying belly down on the back cellar door with their ear pressed tight.
In short, I was screwed, and not in the happy fun kinda way I had been hoping for with me and Jack.
Despair set in. Hard. My voice felt cut up and pasted back in, poorly. The chemicals in the flask had long since stopped belching up fumes and sat as a tepid, translucent grayish color. I had no more moisture in my eyes to surrender to tears.
Then I heard a door open nearby. It's amazing how you can suddenly hear even the faintest whisper of sound when you've been surrounded by silence for so long. I was leaning over in the chair at this point, unsure of the passage of time. My head still felt thicker than ice in a frozen pond, and about as clear.
I started to panic when the shadow fell over me. He had come for me. He was going to lop off my balls. He was going to torture me with electric shocks until my skin burst and my muscles ripped themselves loose from my bones. He was going to enjoy it. He'd done it to my parents, and maybe worse. I was going to die, slowly, painfully, and all so he could do some science geek Nazi stuff and live forever and make and army of kid warriors and assassins using my blood, balls and bits, and using what he'd done to Jack too.
I felt my breathing start to quicken, felt my body cramping from being scrunched up in that position for such a long time. I felt the soreness in my head ramp back up to full on throbbing pain. I could smell the stale, leftover aftertaste of my own puke, dried now into my shirt. I struggled to open my eyes against the harsh artificial light in the room, trying to lift my head up to see who was leaning over me. My mind surged to conclusions as my body barely could move to try and test those thick leather straps holding my arms unwaveringly to the chair.
And before I could manage to look up and cringe in terror, knowing that I was about to enter into a new understanding of what pain really was, I heard a voice say, "So, it is time."