Let Freedom Ring

Posted: 4th July 2011 by Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue in Single-run ("One off") Stories
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Something struck him in the head. He sensed it must have struck hard, but there was no blood. No bruising. Not even a scratch.

I’ve been awakened from my stupor—my fugue, the man realized. When I’m not aware, I’m a Tank. It’s hard to hurt me. But still I must awaken to the world around me to defend myself.

He turned his Ace-bandaged head to track the source of the missile. As he did, he saw a large rock nearby on the dry grass where he stood. No doubt it was the projectile. In the distance, a young man of perhaps 17 years.

“Get the fuck away from my town, you bastard!”

Doctor Holiday began to stride toward the teen.

The teen began to jog away.

Doctor Holiday began to run, and so did the youth.

He might have outrun the transhuman, if Doctor Holiday’s mind hadn’t begun to awaken to a power summoned up from his genes for this occasion. If he hadn’t reached out with powers to increase the local gravity suddenly around the fleeing teen. Unprepared for having his body suddenly feel three times heavier than normal, the youth tumbled to the ground. Once he reached the young man, Doctor Holiday returned the level of gravity to normal.

“Don’t ki…” the teen-ager began breathlessly.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Doctor Holiday interrupted with a mild and unthreatening voice—at least two dozen ways to hurt or slay his attacker arose in his mind in a split-second, but there was no threat here and there was no wickedness in his heart right now. “It’s not safe. Go home.”

As the young man fled, Doctor Holiday considered his situation. Memories of past deeds assailed him at once, but he had no particular feelings about any of them, whether heroic, villainous or somewhere in the gray between them. He only felt a gnawing hunger to know what his life was before his powers and his unpredictable nature became his defining characteristics.

He looked down at the digital display mounted to his torso, and saw that it was almost two full days until the 4th of July. He’d never been awakened from a fugue by a perceived threat so close to a holiday before. He was certain conscious thought would flee him as surely as had the high-schooler moments ago.

It did not.

Uncertain whether he would continue to have autonomy from now until the end of Independence Day—and even more uncertain whether one of his more active and committed personalities would emerge when the 4th dawned—Doctor Holiday went off in search of food and shelter.

* * *

“Dr. Hansen, I have some interesting data on Earnhardt and Cooper,” Dr. Jacob Weinbaum began as he walked into the office of his superior at the Genesis One lab. When there was no response, he looked up from the papers he had been reading as he walked in, and saw the bottle of scotch on the desk, and the man he had been addressing sipping at a tumbler glass half-full of the liquor.

“I’m half-drunk already—maybe more, Jacob, so you might as well call me Jack and skip the normal polite autocratic bullshit protocols, titles and whatnot,” Dr. Hansen muttered, taking another sip at his glass.

“Jesus, Jack,” Dr. Weinbaum said. “I know this is an annual pity party for you for the past 10…”


“Okay, nine years, Jack. But it isn’t even July 4th yet. You’re going to start getting drunk early now?”

“He escaped this facility at 2:17 a.m. on Independence Day 2001, Jake. That’s only, what? A little over five hours away? Might as well start now. I have a bad feeling about this year.”

Jacob sat down, and set the files down on Dr. Hansen’s table. There was no point going over the progress in the emergence process for any of their subjects tonight. Or tomorrow for that matter.

“So, do you get drunk every year like this because you’re depressed that we lost control of him and he went rogue and we can’t study him anymore,” Dr. Weinbaum asked, “or because we had such an overwhelming success in creating someone so powerful to begin with—and so dangerous?”

Dr. Hansen considered that for a moment, then downed the rest of his glass in one swallow and filled it almost to the brim before answering: “I wish I could tell you, Jacob. I really wish I could.”

* * *

Even so early in the morning, it was already hot in the Nevada desert. Reno could just barely be seen as a speck on the horizon, through the ripples of heat in the air that made it look like water was all around in little pockets.

The administrator and warden of the Riverton Psychiatric Prison, Kyle Raynes, stood in that hot, arid, sandy wasteland, one foot on the main road to the facility and one in the grit next to a small cactus, and surveyed the two huge holes in the wall of the main building and the spiderwebs of cracks in so many other walls. The piles of glistening glass shards on the ground from the windows, hardly any of which had survived the assault. He noted the absence of all but two vehicles in the parking lot where last night there had been at least three dozen.

Kyle wiggled a finger inside his left ear and frowned.

“Are you all right, sir?” asked the watch commander.

“Ringing in my ears is dying down, but it’s still annoying. At least I’m not stone deaf like the guards at the main gate and all the major checkpoints,” Kyle said. “What does Dr. Jiminez have to say about that?”

“She figures that most of them have permanent hearing loss that will put them on disability—a couple look to have damage that will mean total loss of hearing,” the commander answered. “About a dozen prisoners are in the same shape.”

“But not the worst prisoners, right?”

“No, sir. Not the worst ones. They’re loose, and the security videos lead us to believe they are totally unharmed. Seventy-three escapees total, 42 of them transhumans, and only about a half-dozen we have any leads on. Not sure what other tricks Doctor Holiday had besides that sonic scream and vibrating wave-blast shit, but he seems to have had some ability to cloak or transport the bulk of them. They’re free as birds and we have no clue where to begin looking.”

“I guess on the bright side, things will be a bit quieter around here with a 20% drop in our population and the most difficult prisoners no longer under our care,” Kyle said with a bitter sarcasm.

“I imagine so, sir. Happy fucking Independence Day, eh?”

“Yes, yes it is,” Kyle answered quietly. “For them at least. An Independence Day none of them will likely ever forget.”