Thursday, March 27, 2008

Janever Six (Part I)

Ten years ago…

Doctor Maxine Flannigan sat in her office quietly, reading her laptop screen and smoking a much needed cigarette. It had been a long day of reporting to her supervisors, and she was tired. This was her only respite from the morning’s doings.

Her office was cozily kept on the fourth floor, tidy save for her desk. The leather-topped desk was a fair compliment to the rest of the senior doctor’s minimal furniture. There was a small desk lamp making the desk glow a dim orange. A single blinded window looking behind her tried uselessly to let the diminishing sunlight in, but she liked her office dark and brooding, much like her mood at the moment. Even with the door open, the room was a collage of silhouettes.

She let out a raspy sigh when she heard footfalls coming down the hallway. She was more than tired, she was cranky too.

“Doctor, I must speak with you,” pleaded the young security officer from the open doorway.

Doctor Flannigan looked up from her laptop, let out a tired smile, and motioned him inside the office. The poor boy must have been only newly assigned, for she had specifically mentioned to everyone in the security department that her private quarters were off limits. “You know that no one is to disturb me in my office, mister…” She looked at his name badge, “Cross. Did they not tell you as some sort of cruel joke?”

“One of the specimens is missing, ma’am.” Officer Cross was terrified. His whole body trembled, and he was out of breath. Did he run down to her office?

“Did you check the sign-out sheet, Mr. Cross? Maybe one of the other doctors took it to an exam room.” She had to find some way to calm this boy down, all 19 years of him. No reason for him to get worked up over something that was probably another paperwork error. Though he was on edge, she was counting on it being the fact that he was still wet behind the ears.

“I triple-checked the logs. Definitely missing. So far as I can tell from the recordings in the cold room, it’s been gone for almost an entire day.”

“Many doctors here are scatterbrains, son.” She smiled to herself at the thought he could be young enough to be her grandson. “We don’t always sign the log sheet, even me. And I’m supposed to set the example.” She grabbed her coffee mug and took a swig, trying hard to keep Cross at ease.

“Yes ma’am. We’ve already asked all of the other physicians. None of them checked out a specimen all day. And …” he trailed off, gathering strength to say more.

“Yes, and?” She made a sour face. The coffee was ice cold.

“Well doctor, that’s why I’m bothering you in your quarters. All the other docs said they don’t touch this specimen. They say it’s your project.”

“What?” The coffee mug hit the desk with an audible thud. Cold dark liquid sloshed out of the cup, and stained the shuffled papers on her desk. She did not notice. “What number, Mister Cross?”

“J-6, ma’am.”

“Oh God.” Now, Doctor Flannigan too started shaking uncontrollably.

They both ran to the elevators where a car was fortunately waiting for them. Officer Jack Cross pressed the button for sublevel 9, and they descended. They ran again as soon as the elevator doors opened, left down the hall to the cold room. She frantically entered her password on the keypad next to the door, and had to be reminded by Cross to provide a thumbprint for the computer.

The chamber was filled with security officers and physicians alike. A few officers were cordoning off the area, both outside the cold room and in. Some were taking pictures methodically, going from this broken beaker to that dent in the wall, snapping roll after roll of film for research. One small group was pondering a smear on the wall that looked like blood. Most, however, were in the back of the room, staring helplessly at the empty tube that once held Flannigan’s prized specimen.

“What time was he known to be missing, Mister Cross? And who was in charge during this time?”

“Since 9:30 this morning, Doctor Flannigan,” answered a low voice from the large crowd near the cryogenic tube. A short and thin man walked from the middle of the ogling group and offered his hand. “And I was in charge all day today.”

Maxine looked down to him, and hesitantly shook his hand. A limp and easily forgettable handshake. She wanted to wipe her hand on her coat, but thought better of it. “Horace. So have you checked the other cameras? The elevators? The vent system? And where were you during the time when Mister Cross was questioning the other doctors? Do you have any idea where he’s gone?”

“Maxine. Doctor. We’ve been looking nonstop since his confirmed disappearance, which was not quite an hour ago. We saw … him,” – Horace sounded annoyed that Flannigan had given the specimen a personal pronoun – “in our rounds first thing in the morning, around 6:15. It was noticed missing” – he replaced ‘he’ with ‘it’ to make himself more comfortable – “by Mister Cross during his solo rounds. That was around two this afternoon.

“Jack came to me, following proper channels, and I called out an alert to the building immediately, also according to procedure. The physicians were all questioned, the log books were checked and checked again, the computer logs were reviewed. The cameras were tested and the recordings checked. Near as I can tell, we have a theft on our hands here.”

Maxine checked her watch. 4:45pm. “So you’re telling me that you have been looking for a kidnapper that has a five or six hour head start?” She was furious.

“Calm down, Doctor Flannigan …” started Horace Donson, chief of security.

“I will not calm down until you tell me what the fuck is going on! And whose blood is that?!” She pointed at the reddish-brown smear on the wall. “You had better start explaining things a little clearer if you expect me to calm down!” She stepped into his personal space, and kneeled a little, her six foot frame belittling him without the need of her tone of voice. “Or I will have your balls in a vice. Do you get me, Chief Donson? Horace?” The last bit was for spite, and it felt good to her.

Donson swallowed hard, and tried to speak without squeaking. For Maxine, the word weasel came to mind. “Doctor, please. I’m doing all I can. If it was a theft, it must have been an inside job. We’re checking right now to see if anyone had called-in today, or has had the day off, or is otherwise not on the work roster. We are also making a building-wide search for missing persons that were on the roster. Nothing has turned up yet.

“As for the blood, it belongs to the specimen. Of that we are certain.”
Flannigan steamed. That was twice Horace twisted her words.

She let out a huff in his face, and strode as calmly as she could to a computer terminal. She punched in her security clearance, and brought the main screen in the room to life. There on the wall for everyone to see were Specimen J-6’s statistics since its – his – inception.

“Does that look like a specimen to you, Chief Donson? Because I’m confused about what you consider inanimate and what you don’t.”

“Doctor Flannigan, my job is not to tell you whether you’ve created a good monster or not. My job is to find where your monster ran off to.” He seemed annoyed that she would even consider him a good judge on things such as this.

“Yes, and with an entire building on alert, it should be no problem, should it?” she flared. “Tell me again what time you found him missing?”

Maxine slammed the door to her office and made a beeline for her desk. She picked up the telephone and dialed out with one hand while the other tossed the last of the coffee from her cup into the trash and replaced it with brandy from a snifter sitting on the windowsill behind her. She guzzled trembling, took a deep breath and calmed down, and gulped the rest.

The other end answered on the fifth ring.

“Urban. It’s Max. Six is gone.”

“Fuck me. You’re kidding.”

“About seven hours ago. Security’s been on it for at least that long. They tell me they’re about to contact Homeland Security.”

“Max, no. They can’t. You know you’ll be shut down.”

“I’ve got no choice, Urban! Too many people are involved already; it’s only going to get worse. I’m calling you to tell you to leave right now. Go anywhere, I don’t care, I’ll come find you when this thing gets cooled down. Just do it in the next ten minutes. I don’t doubt this’ll make the President talk.”

“Christ on a crutch. Maxine, this is going to start a war and you know it. Calling HS won’t solve shit. Don’t give up on him. You owe it to yourself to trust your instincts.”

“Goddamn it Urban! Don’t you give me that psychobabble bullshit! I’ve got a fucking clone walking around Nebraska and all you can say is ‘trust your instincts’?!”

“He’s non-violent, Max. You’ve cured him.”

“No, I haven’t. It’s subconscious, but it’s there, for fuck’s sake! All it takes is one situation and his whole mind might come crashing down on him and he’ll go fucking nuts!”

“Fuck you, Max. Fine, if you’re giving up on him then I’m giving up on you. Call your fucking Homeland Security. See if I give a fuck. Let them raid my house. Let them arrest me. You’re not even giving me or him a chance in this. I can find him. We can find him.”

“And what if he lapses before we get to him? Are you saying we risk other people’s lives on the premise that you think we’re that good of a team? You’re right about one thing, Urban. If Six has an episode, it will start a war.”

“Goddamn it, Max.”

“I’m sorry, Urban. I’m making the call. Get out of your house, now.”

“I’m coming to you. Don’t go too far.”

“Don’t tell Reggie.”



“OK. But you’ve officially killed me.”


“Fuck you.”
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Janever Six by Michael W. Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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