Orphaned (Commission) – Ch 15 – lostandwhatever
Charlie, Eddie, and Davion ran out of the office into the main room of the lab. Across the room by the door, Roger Kingsley was behind Ms. Peach, tying a zip tie around her wrists to secure her as she struggled against him, helplessly. The big bearded man was over a foot taller than her and at least a hundred pounds heavier. She stood no chance against him. With her wrists secure, he sat her on a chair and attached another zip tie to the chair itself to secure her to it.
“Kingsley!” Charlie yelled at him. “Let her go!”
“Hold on a moment,” he said as he pulled a roll of duck tape out of a duffel bag on the floor and lay a short strip over her mouth to keep her quiet. All she could do in response was hum and struggle in vain. “Now that I’ve taken care of the adult supervision for this field trip,” he said, turning his attention back to Charlie. “It’s time to get down to business.”
“Let her go, and we’ll leave,” Charlie said. “I promise you’ll never hear from us again. We just want to get out of here.”
Looking around the office, Kingsley said, “Before we start the negotiations, tell me, what happened to the doctor? She said she was entering the building not long ago.”
Baby Bud squealed from a shelf, drawing everyone’s attention.
Seeing an opportunity, Eddie said, “That’s her on the shelf. We stuck her with your damn drug.”
Kingsley frowned as he looked at the baby. “What a pity,” he said. “She was… useful. This might set the project back a few weeks.”
Charlie asked, “What do you plan on doing to us?”
Ignoring the question, Kingsley asked, “Where’s the fourth one? She said she saw three other children with you.”
Eddie said, “Hold on a minute.” He went back into Dr. Wolff’s office. Charlie watched as Eddie whispered to Jack and Linda. “Just do it,” he said more loudly to Jack. Linda, looking a bit confused, removed her shirt and bra and stood there, naked and nervous. Meanwhile, Jack took off his shirt and handed it to her. She put on the oversized shirt, which hung down past her crotch, and Eddie dragged her by the hand over to where Charlie and Davion were waiting. “Here she is,” Eddie said, presenting young Linda Wolff for him to see. “She was hiding away, scared.”
Charlie noticed a shirtless Jack crawl out of the office and head in Kingsley’s direction down an aisle between some cubicles. Kingsley did not appear to notice Jack at all.
“You took a little girl with you?” Kingsley asked, skeptically.
“She was older when we got here,” Eddie explained. “Your doctor used some of that drug on our friend here before we used it back on her.”
Little Linda looked confused, but she kept quiet out of fear.
“I see,” Kingsley said. “Well, let’s get this over with.” He pulled a bundle of zip ties out of his bag and tossed them to Charlie’s feet.
“What do you think we’re going to do with these?” Charlie asked.
“I think it should be pretty obvious,” Kingsley said. “You’ll tie up your friends. Then, you’ll come over to me, so I can tie you up as well.”
“Like hell we’re doing that,” Eddie said. “Fuck you!”
“Language,” Kingsley scolded him. “And, you will do it. I don’t intend to get violent here, but I’m not above it. So, don’t force my hand.”
Charlie tried to think of a way out. He needed some kind of bargaining chip. Then, he remembered the drive in his pocket. He pulled it out and held it up in the air, saying, “Here’s my counteroffer: Let her go and I’ll give you this drive.”
Kingsley smiled, apparently amused by the negotiation. “What’s on it?”
“I copied all of your files for Project Tabula Rasa,” Charlie said. He turned to Davion and told him, “Go to the computer. Delete all the files, even the back ups.”
“I see,” Kingsley said as he watched Davion run into Dr. Wolff’s office. “So, once he’s wiped our files, you’ll have the only copy of the research now. And, you’re threatening… what? …to take that drive to the police or the media to get me arrested or something? Is that right?”
“I thought I might send copies of it to all of our competitors as well, actually.” Charlie said. “They might be interested in making their own version of our new drug.”
“Nice touch,” Kingsley conceded. “Unfortunately for you, we have back ups of our back ups in places you cannot access. Plus, there’s paper copies of the important information as well. You could erase everything you find and burn down the whole building, but that won’t delete everything. It might just set us back a few more weeks.”
“I can still take it to the cops,” Charlie said.
“You won’t be able to run from me,” he said. “I’m faster than I look.”
“Maybe I’ll give it to one of my friends. We’ll scatter. You won’t know who to chase.”
Kingsley sighed. “You’re just determined to play the hero here. Aren’t you.”
“Just let her go,” Charlie said. “We can all walk out of here with what we want.”
Kingsley shook his head and said, “I guess I’ll have to play the villain.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a pistol. Then, he pointed it at Ms. Peach, who whimpered and flinched.
“Stop!” Charlie said.
“Now,” Kingsley said, keeping the gun pointed at her. “Here’s my counteroffer: tie up your friends, then come over to me, or I will fire a large number of bullets into your teacher here.”
“You’re not a killer,” Charlie said, trying to sound calm and reasonable. “You’re a businessman.”
“Maybe,” Kingsley said. “Maybe I don’t have the guts to murder her in my office, or maybe I do. Do you want to chance it?”
Charlie put the drive back in his pocket and picked up the zip ties.
“Fuck that!” Eddie cried and ran into Dr. Wolff’s office.
Charlie tied up Linda’s wrists behind her back, while she just cried quietly, not resisting at all.
Davion looked ready to fight before he would be tied up.
“Hey,” Whispered Eddie. Both boys looked at him in the office. He gave them a thumbs up and said, “Just go along with it. I’ve got an idea.”
Davion hesitated a moment. Then, put his knife in his back pocket and let Charlie tie him up as well.
Charlie went into the office to get Eddie.
Eddie yelled, “Keep your hands off of me.” Meanwhile, he was filling a syringe from the remaining bottle of the mental regression drug. He set the full syringe down on the desk and turned around to let Charlie tie up his wrists. Eddie whispered, “Get close. Keep it hidden. And, don’t fuck it up, or we’re dead.”
Charlie whispered back, “Right.” Once Eddie was tied up, Charlie grabbed the syringe. He held it in his palm by the plunger end with the needle hidden behind his arm. Then, they left the office.
Seeing the three children tied up to his satisfaction, Kingsley said, “Good. Now, you three stay put there. Charlie, you come to me… slowly. No sudden moves.”
“Kingsley?” Charlie asked him as he slowly walked across the room.
“Chuck?” he replied.
“Can I ask you a question or two?”
“It won’t save you.”
“I’m curious. I want to know what this was all about. At least until…”
“Fine,” Kingsley said, sounding confident. “Ask away.”
“Why did you do this to me? What’s the real reason?”
“The truth?” Kingsley asked. “You might not like it.”
“Give me the truth.”
“Okay,” Kingsley said. “We needed a test subject for our drug—someone to take only the physical drug. We had to test if it affected the mind at all when taken alone. Of course, we couldn’t use a convict for a test like that. No way we could trust one of them to keep quiet. We needed someone on a mission, someone who would answer only to us.”
“Yes, and you did well. You proved that the physical drug does not affect the mind. Just the result we were hoping for.”
“So, the problems with the orphanage? The government funding? Was any of that real?”
“Real, but not a major concern. We liked that the feds gave us human test subjects, but we didn’t need their money. And, at this point, we don’t even need more guinea pigs. We’re about ready to start marketing the drug.”
“A replacement for executions? There’s money in that?”
Kingsley laughed and smiled at him. “You are exactly who we expected you to be. Do you know why we selected you?”
“I wanted a position as a manager. I was ambitious.”
Kingsley shook his head. “We checked through the psych profiles of all of our employees, looking for someone ready to follow orders and not ask too many questions—someone gullible, a patsy. You came up on the top of our list—smart but unimaginative, ambitious but unimpressive, perfect for our needs. Plus, you had no family to come around asking questions about you. You were basically an orphan to begin with.”
Charlie felt the sting of the words and replied, “What’s the drug really for?”
Kingsley sighed. “Maybe I was wrong when I called you smart. Have you looked in the mirror recently? You’re years younger, but you have your memories of adulthood still. Do you not see the market for the drug now?”
Charlie paused a moment as he realized the terrifying potential of the drug. “It’s the fountain of youth.”
“Yes,” Kingsley replied. “It’s not perfect. We were never able to make anyone older than prepubescent when we sent them back, but all of you are growing back up again. You’ll be adults again, eventually. Now, imagine the fortune an aging billionaire would spend to avoid death for another 70 years or so. I doubt he would mind much having to go through those awkward teenage years again if it meant possibly living forever.”
“There’s no antidote. Is there?” Charlie asked, already knowing the answer.
“Of course not,” Kingsley said. “There’s no money in making someone older when time will do that all by itself. Your actual reward was always going to be having your memories wiped. However, that’s become more complicated with you having pulled so many other people into this.”
Charlie looked at Kingsley’s gun and asked, “Are you going to kill us?”
“No, I’ll just wipe all of your memories and send you back to the orphanage. As you said before, I’m not a killer. Although, if you try anything now…” He looked at his pistol still pointed at Ms. Peach.
“And, Ms. Peach?”
“You’ll still see her in class, but she’ll be taking a demotion from teacher to student.”
Ms. Peach grunted and Kingsley said, “My apologies, ma’am, but you shouldn’t have gotten involved with the bad kids.” Kingsley pointed his empty hand at the bag by his feet. “Take out a zip tie,” he ordered Charlie. “Then, be a good boy and turn around.”
Charlie walked up to the bag, judging his distance from Kingsley’s leg as he approached. When he judged he was close enough, he swung the syringe at Kingsley, but Kingsley pulled his leg away just in time to dodge the needle, pointing the gun away from Ms. Peach as he did.
“You little bastard!” Kingsley yelled at Charlie and kicked Charlie in the gut, sending him flying back and landing painfully on the ground. It took a moment of gasping for Charlie to get air back in his lungs again. It was painful to breathe, though. He thought the kick might have broken some ribs. Charlie looked up at Kingsley, who had his gun pointed towards him now. “Trying to use my own drug on me?” he asked Charlie. Then, Charlie watched as Kingsley walked up to the syringe and stomped on it, cracking it open and spilling the drug into the carpet. “Who do you think you are, kid? I’m Roger Kingsley. I’m worth millions… soon to be billions. I’m about to change the world. You, on the other hand, are a worthless nobody. You don’t matter to anyone. No one will miss you.” He smiled. “You know what? On second thought, maybe I am a killer.” His finger moved to the trigger of his gun.
But, before he could aim and fire, he let out a little gasp and reached a hand around to his back to where a tranq dart was stuck in him. He spun around and saw Jack standing there, desperately trying to reload the tranquilizer gun he had just shot.
Kingsley took aim, and Jack shrieked and jumped out of the way just before the gun fired, shattering the glass door behind the boy. Kingsley pulled out the tranquilizer dart and tossed it aside in disgust. “Get back here!” he yelled as Jack ran away.
Charlie watched to see if Kingsley was slowing down or getting drowsy, but it seemed that he was too large for one dart to have much of an effect on him. Suddenly, Davion came racing up the aisle past Charlie, brandishing his knife again, with the cut halves of the zip tie still on his wrists. Kingsley turned just in time to see Davion approaching, but before he could fire at the boy, Davion sliced the side of Kingsley’s hand, causing him to drop the gun. Kingsley cried out in pain and tried to punch Davion, but the boy ducked under his punch and ran off again.
Kingsley let out another gasp as another dart hit him in the back. This time, Jack was much quicker in reloading the dart gun, while Kingsley was starting to slow down. Eddie ran up with his wrists still bound and kicked the pistol away before Kingsley could pick it up. It slid some distance away under the cubicles.
In a blind fury, Kingsley grabbed Eddie by his throat with both hands and began to strangle him. As Eddie fought for breath, Kingsley gasped again as another dart hit him, but he kept on trying to squeeze the life out of Eddie, whose eyelids had begun to flutter. But, just before the boy lost consciousness, Kingsley’s grip loosened, and Eddie freed himself and fell to the floor, gasping for air. Then, Kingsley himself fell like a downed bull and immediately began snoring on the ground next to Eddie.
“You guys okay?” Jack said as he reloaded the dart gun again. “Is he down?”
“He’s down,” Charlie said and winced. It hurt his chest to speak, making him think that his ribs had to be at least bruised. “Eddie?”
Eddie coughed. “I’m okay,” he rasped.
Davion used his knife to cut Eddie’s wrists free of the zip tie and went to free Ms. Peach as well.
Charlie got to his feet slowly and joined Jack standing over Kingsley. Having freed his friends, Davion joined them a moment later.
“What do we do about him?” Jack asked. “He’ll come after us again when he wakes up.”
Davion held up his knife. “He doesn’t have to wake up.”
“What!?” Jack said.
“Stop!” Ms. Peach said.
“No!” Charlie said, shaking his head. “We’re not killing him.”
“Why not?” Davion said. “He tried to kill us just now. He’ll try again later. This fixes everything. It’s our best option.”
Eddie sighed and wheezed, “We’re not going to kill him because we don’t have to.”
Davion looked at Eddie quizzically.
“Yeah, I know,” Eddie said, sitting up. He coughed and rubbed his red throat. “I’m surprised I said it as well. Charlie’s right, though.”
Davion lowered his blade.
“I’ve been doing some thinking,” Eddie said, while getting to his feet. “Thinking about who we used to be. Since we watched that video, I’ve been thinking about how I might still grow up to be that guy we saw. He was going to be executed. I doubt he wanted to end up in prison like that. I think, if he had a chance to choose a different life for himself at that point, then he probably would’ve. He probably would’ve done a lot of things differently. Maybe, if he had another chance, he would choose to not kill someone, to do the right thing for once. Maybe, he would wish to be someone that mattered to the world, a good guy.” He turned to Charlie and Ms. Peach. “Do you think I’m right?”
Charlie nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “That sounds right to me.”
A tear rolled down Ms. Peach’s cheek as she gave him a nod and a proud smile.
Davion thought a moment, looking at his blade. Then, he nodded as well and walked up to Eddie. Davion folded the knife shut and handed the weapon over to Eddie, who took it with an impressed look on his face.
“Thanks,” Eddie said, holding the knife carefully as if it were a precious gift.
“Yeah.” Davion said. “So, we’ll be the good guys. Fine with me. Still, we have to do something about this guy. We can’t just leave him here. He’ll come after us again.”
Charlie looked at Kingsley and thought back to what he had seen on Dr. Wolff’s computer. “I’ve got an idea,” he said with a smile.