Orphaned (Commission) – Ch 13 – lostandwhatever
They all watched as Jack’s video began playing:
It started with a date stamp from a few years ago, the image showed a view of the lab they were standing in.
A man and a woman wearing white lab coats were standing in front of a table with a large animal cage on it. Inside the cage was a beagle. The man was holding a syringe, and the woman was holding a clipboard and pen.
Although they could not see the man’s face, the woman was definitely Dr. Wolff.
The man was about to open the cage, but he hesitated and put down the syringe.
“What’s the matter?” Dr. Wolff asked.
“I’m done,” he said. “This whole project is flawed.”
“I know it’s working. That’s the problem.”
“Kingsley won’t be happy. You want to tell him you’re quitting.”
“Sure,” he said. “I don’t care. I’ll also tell him how incredibly, ethically wrong what we’re doing is.”
She walked around the table and put a hand on his shoulder. The dog whimpered up at them expectantly, wondering what was happening.
“Listen, it’s late,” she said. “We’re tired. We should have gone home hours ago. Before you decide to make any drastic decisions, maybe you should sleep on it first.” Her hand gently massaged his shoulder in a more than friendly way.
The man turned away from her and slipped out of her grip. “No more of that either,” he said. “It was a mistake to have done it at all. I have kids. My wife… I…”
“You despise your wife.”
“No, you despise my wife. I let you convince me that I felt the same way. Just like I let you convince me to keep going on this ridiculous project.”
“The regression works,” she said. “If I’m right, we should even be able to separate the physical regression from the mental regression. We’re so close to starting human trials.”
“All the more reason to stop it now,” he said. “We can avoid having that stain on our consciences. I’m going to tell Kingsley that the drug is hopelessly flawed. It’s a dead end. With any luck, he’ll believe me. Then, we can bury this project for good.”
Dr. Wolff looked at him with a mixture of shock and fury. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would. It’s done. We’re done,” he said. “I’m going to confess to my wife as well. I need to crawl out of this pit I’m in.”
As he turned his back on her to leave, Dr. Wolff picked up the syringe and glanced at it for a moment. “Jack?” she said. He turned around, and she stepped forward. It was not clear from the camera angle just what happened, but when he stepped back, the camera showed the needle of the syringe stuck into his belly with the plunger completely pressed down.
He screamed. “What have you done!?” he said, pulling the syringe out of himself and seeing it empty.
“It was an accident,” she said, stepping away from him.
“You… you monster! How could you? How could… How…?” He paused and looked around himself in sudden confusion. “How did I get here?” he asked as his face grew shiny with sweat. “I’m hot.” He stumbled back away from the camera and collapsed onto an office chair, where he sat limply panting as steam began to rise from his skin. Meanwhile, Dr. Wolff picked up her clipboard again and observed him with clinical detachment, making careful notes. The beagle barked and shuffled around its cage nervously.
“I’m burning,” he moaned. “What’s happening?” That last word sounded less manly and more boyish. His lab coat and the rest of his clothes hung loosely on his damp skin. One sudden reverse growth spurt pulled his feet off the floor and out of his shoes, which clopped down below.
Then, they all recognized him. The kid in the video was the same boy standing next to them right now. Their friend Jack was on that chair, and he was suffering. Even Charlie felt tears form in his eyes.
“I’m scared,” Jack cried, sounding like a lost boy. Already, he looked like a child playing dress up in adult clothes, yet he kept shrinking. His head sunk below the height of the chair back and his legs became so short that they pointed out from the seat instead of hanging over the edge.
Then, when it seemed as though he might disappear into his clothes completely, the shrinking stopped, leaving him a shiny-faced boy who looked to be just barely older than a toddler. Little Jack panted in exhaustion, eyes shut, too dazed from the experience to notice what had happened to him or where he was.
The dog whimpered and whined in its cage, as Dr. Wolff walked up to her partner and made notes on her clipboard while she circled around him, observing him like a lab rat. More terrifying than anything else in the video was her utter lack of concern on her face.
As the boy began to cry, she walked over to the camera, reached for it, and the video ended.
They were all silent for close to a minute, trying to absorb what they had just seen. Everyone looked to Jack for his reaction, but he was stunned into emotionless silence.
“You weren’t a criminal,” Charlie said to Jack.
Eddie said, “Fuck that! He invented this shit they used on us. That’s fucking criminal by itself.”
“He wanted to stop it,” Ms. Peach pointed out. “He was quitting making it.”
“Whatever,” Eddie said. “He was still sick enough in the head to think it up in the first place.” Eddie grabbed Jack by the front of his shirt and prepared to punch Jack in the face. “You did this to me!”
Jack did not react at all, he just stood there with a blank stare on his face.
“Stop!” Davion said. Eddie paused. “The guy in the video isn’t Jack. He’s just someone that Jack might grow up to be. You don’t remember this at all, do you, Jack?”
Jack almost imperceptibly shook his head.
“We can’t blame him for something he did when he was older,” Davion said, and somehow, everyone understood what he meant. “That’s not who he is now. He’s our friend.”
Eddie let go of Jack’s shirt and lowered his fist.
“I’m sorry,” Jack whispered. “I’m sorry, everyone.”
Eddie nodded, and then, after a pause, he wrapped his arms around Jack and pulled him into a tight hug. “It’s okay,” Eddie said, patting Jack on the back. “We get it. It’s not your fault. We’re cool.”
Suddenly, they all heard a sound that drew their attention away from Jack: the door to the lab had just unlocked. When the handle turned, Charlie said, “Duck!” and everyone hid inside the cubicle.
“Be careful,” they heard Dr. Wolff’s voice said. “They’re probably in here already.”
A man grunted a wordless reply.
Charlie realized that they had run out of time. They had no chance of finding anything else with Dr. Wolff and her goon in the office looking for them. Their only hope now was to escape without being caught.
“We have to sneak out,” Charlie whispered to the group. “Don’t let them see you.”
They all listened to the high-heeled footsteps of Dr. Wolff and the heavier clomps of her companion as the two approached them. When it was clear that the two of them were walking up one of the aisles between the cubicles, Charlie led his group down a different parallel aisle towards the door, all of them crouching low to avoid being seen.
They crept along slowly, silently, until they heard Dr. Wolff’s heels stop clicking on the floor. Then, they paused and listened for what she would do next.
Suddenly, they heard the voices of Dr. Wolff and the grown up Jack talking to each other again. It took a moment before Charlie realized that she was watching the same video that they had just seen.
“Go watch the door,” the real Dr. Wolff said. “They must be hiding in here somewhere.”
“Run!” Eddie said and sprinted towards the exit. Everyone else took an extra moment to realize that Eddie had just exposed them. Then, they followed his lead.
“Stop them!” Dr. Wolff said.
Charlie glanced over his shoulder to see her huge goon, Bud, racing them to reach the door. The big man ran surprisingly fast for his size and gained on them quickly as he sprinted down his own aisle next to them. Just when Eddie grabbed the door handle, Bud grabbed Eddie by the wrist.
“Let him go!” Ms. Peach cried as Bud pulled Eddie away from the door and then positioned his bulky frame in front of the handle, blocking their exit.
“Good!” Dr. Wolff yelled from the other end of the lab. “Hold them there for a moment, while I grab the tranquilizer gun.”
Eddie struggled helplessly to free himself from Bud’s vice-like grip. Then, he leaned in and savagely bit one of the fingers holding him. The big man grunted in pain and let up on Eddie’s wrist just enough for the boy to escape.
“Hide!” Eddie said and again they all had to follow his lead running away from Bud. Then, they each ducked into cubicles to hide.
Charlie ended up with Eddie under a desk. In the chaos, he did not see where everyone else had hidden.
Dr. Wolff sighed. “Very well,” she said. “If you want to play hide and seek, then we can do it that way. Bud, block the exit.”
They heard something heavy and metal slide against the tile floor over to the door where the sliding stopped.
“Find them,” Dr. Wolff said.
“What do we do?” Charlie whispered to Eddie.
Eddie thought a moment and then peeked out of the cubicle to see if the coast was clear. “I have an idea,” Eddie whispered. “Wait here.”
“What?” Charlie whispered back, but Eddie just hurried away, quietly crouching.
Charlie remained hiding under the desk, listening for footsteps. What felt like an hour later, he heard the soft sound of sneakers approach him, and Eddie reappeared and crawled under the desk to join him again.
“Check it out,” Eddie whispered and held up two syringes. Each one was uncapped and filled with a clear liquid.
Eddie nodded. “I filled them up with the age drugs from those two bottles we found.”
Charlie looked at the identical syringes and asked, “Which one is which?”
“Uh…” Eddie said, giving each syringe a quick look. “Not sure. But, either way, they should help us, right?”
“Maybe,” Charlie said.
Across the room, they heard Ms. Peach yell, “Stop! Don’t hurt him.”
Eddie and Charlie exchanged a look, and then they snuck out of their cubicle together and headed for Ms. Peach.
When they turned a corner between the cubicles, they spotted Dr. Wolff standing above Ms. Peach who was kneeling on the floor between the doctor and Jack. The boy cowered in terror behind his teacher. Dr. Wolff held a pistol-sized tranquilizer dart gun in her hand but was not pointing it at them yet.
Before Eddie and Charlie could move to help them, Davion cried out in pain behind them. They heard something metal slide across the floor towards them. It stopped at their feet and they recognized it as Davion’s knife. The blade was bloody again.
Eddie held out one syringe to Charlie and whispered, “You get the doctor.” Charlie took the syringe, being careful to avoid touching the needle. Then, Eddie held up the other syringe and said, “I’ll take care of that big fucker.” Eddie snuck away again, while Charlie slowly crept towards Dr. Wolff from behind, hoping that she would be too busy with Ms. Peach and Jack to notice him.
Dr. Wolff said, “The dart will only put him to sleep for a little while. It’s safe. Jack and I used this gun a few times when our test animals escaped. Do you remember that, Jack?”
Charlie was only about 10 feet from them and getting closer. Thankfully, for the moment, it appeared that Jack had Dr. Wolff’s full attention.
She continued. “Do you remember… us… at all?”
“N-No,” Jack said, sounding as though he might start crying.
“What a pity,” she said. “We had some fun times. I was half-hoping those memories were still buried in your subconscious. Who knows? I might have ended up as your first wet dream.”
Just when Charlie was almost within arms reach of her leg, they heard Eddie cry out, ”I got him! I stuck him with it!” Then, he too groaned in pain.
Dr. Wolff turned around towards Eddie’s voice and immediately noticed Charlie standing behind her with the syringe. And then, everything seemed to go in slow motion as Dr. Wolff lifted her tranquillizer gun and aimed at Charlie. Ms. Peach leapt to her feet and tried to wrestle the gun from Dr. Wolff’s hand. The gun let out a tiny pop when Dr. Wolff fired at Ms. Peach’s abdomen. Then, Ms. Peach’s body went limp and began to fall to the floor. Charlie dropped the syringe to catch Ms. Peach and ended up slumping to the ground with her on top of him, trapped under the surprising weight of her unconscious body.
Dr. Wolff looked down at him and smiled cheerfully. “Hello, Charlie,” she said. “Good to see you again. Thank you for coming back to the office.” She opened the gun and picked out another dart from a box on a nearby desk and began to reload. “It would have been a real headache to find you out there somewhere.”
“Jack,” Charlie said as he struggled to crawl free from under the woman crushing him. “Help me.”
Jack just cowered on the floor beneath Dr. Wolff, who took a moment to sneer down at him. “Oh,” she said. “He won’t be helping you. Jack’s always been a little chicken shit, too much of a coward to matter much in the world. He had talent, but he always lacked the balls to follow through on it.”
“Lemme go…” Eddie moaned, weakly.
Charlie looked behind himself to see Eddie and Davion being limply dragged towards him down the aisle by a steaming teen-aged Bud. Both boys were bloodied and bruised and appeared to be barely conscious. Bud’s suit hung off him loosely, and he had already abandoned his shoes. He was panting as sweat and steam poured off of him. All the while, he appeared to be rapidly shrinking back into childhood. Somehow, maybe through sheer will, he kept moving.
“Oh, Bud,” Dr. Wolff said. “What use will you be to me now? I mean, what good is a baby bodyguard?” She sighed and looked down at Charlie. “You just can’t get good help these days, it seems.” She finished loading her dart into the gun and pointed it back at Charlie. “Now, time to put you all to sleep and wipe your memories. Good night!”
But, the moment before she pulled the trigger, she gasped and shrieked. They both looked down at her calf, into which Jack had just plunged the needle of the syringe that Charlie had dropped.
“Whose a chicken shit now?” Jack said and pushed down the plunger, injecting her with what must have been the mental regression drug.