This is an original work of fiction meant for entertainment purposes only.

Disappointments

By LJ58

1

The ragged coughing had finally stopped.

He was pretty sure the fever was gone, too. If anything, he felt slightly chilled now.

Rolling over on the sickbed where he had been left behind by his father when he seemed to have failed him yet again in the man's opinion, he found, and fumbled for the old phone on the nearby table. The only phone in the room, since his father had ironically felt it a last gesture he could afford. Not that he expected him to live long enough to actually use it.

His old man was all about the gestures, though. Not much else, but he was good with gestures that meant nothing.

Still, if he was recovering, if he was going to live after all, then something must have finally gone right with his dad's so-called research. His dad would probably like to know that. It would mean his research truly was on the right track after all. Perhaps, he felt, then his father would finally see worth in the son he had ignored until he was of an age to join his group of volunteers. Most of whom died.

Many of whom likely wished they could.

His father, he knew now, was involved in some superhuman research project to combat the alien invaders that were wreaking havoc all across the planet these days. Most humans had retreated underground by now just to survive. The only safe place for them, of late.

Only the space, and the resources, were limited, so only the most important got a place in those grand shelters far beneath the aliens' notice.

For whatever the reason, the aliens had never looked, or struck below the surface during their attacks. Never even tried to enter most buildings.

They just blew those up, and killed anyone they saw in the open.

Unfortunately, as there just wasn't that much room underground, a lot of people still died if they were up top when aliens came calling in their region.

"Dad," he rasped, hearing the phone finally answer after he dialed a number he knew well enough. "It's….me. I have to tell you something…."

"Adam, if this is some deathbed nonsense, I don't have time," came the curt rejoinder. "I had a lot of hope for you, but we are facing a new set of trials, and I just don't have time for failures."

Failures.

The word slammed into him, but it didn't hurt. Not really. Adam Taggert was used to that pain. No, this time it angered him.

He could tell his father that he was still alive. The fever gone. The pain fast fading, and that he was feeling pretty good. He could tell him that he was going to live. Yet even as he held the phone, his grip slowly tightening as he listened to that all too familiar litany, he realized the pain was all but gone, and what he felt now was that surge of anger. Ironically, he also felt…..good.

Better than good.

Except for that knot in his chest as his ire grew.

"Goodbye, boy," came the curt growl. "Do me the favor of not interrupting me again without something of import..."

"Don't worry," he grit out. "I won't. I just wanted to tell you something, father. One….last…..thing."

"Oh," came the indifferent query.

"Yes," he said, wondering why his father didn't note the surge of emotion, or the swell of strength now in his voice, and tone. "All my life, I truly hoped to make you proud of me. To make you notice me. But now I see the truth."

The man snorted. Just that. He snorted.

It could have been disdain, indifference, or simply his grim humor.

"And what is that," his father finally complained more than asked.

"You're an asshole," he spat, and crushed the phone in his hand rather than simply hang it up.

Not that he planned to do that. He simply lost his temper completely, and his already tight fist tightened more, and the old-fashioned receiver simply shattered in his hand.

He sat upright now, ignoring the cries from others around him. People like him, who because of his dad's research, or just enemy attacks, were sorely ill, injured, or simply just dying.

Only he wasn't dying now.

He saw an intern walk into the hospital clinic, and eye him just as Adam was rising to his feet.

"Hey, you need to stay….."

He ignored the tall, lanky man who started walking toward him as he turned, and looked around the sick room. The dying room.

No clothing here.

No wasting vital materials on the dead, he mused somberly as the intern stalked toward him now, looking more annoyed than anything else.

"You need to lay down, boy….."

"My name is Adam. Not, boy," he roared, and shoved at the man that tried to put hands on his shoulders. Likely to strong-arm him, like he did everyone.

They didn't want confusion. Or chaos. Or even sympathy. They wanted everyone to lay there like corpses in their beds until they were truly dead. All so they could wrap them up nice and neat for the furnaces.

No burials now. Just a handful of ash left in the furnaces warming the underground shelters for the poor. Usually in subways, sewers, and the like. Quickly converted areas that housed not hundreds, but more often thousands, or more.

And those poor still weren't always guaranteed life.

Every morning they were sent back out to work. To till soil. Scavenge warehouses. Anything to bring down more resources down for the elite, and more deserving.

Like his father.

Just then Adam stared incredulously at the man he had shoved that now went flying back down the middle of the dormitory set-up where the dying lay on a first floor of an old hospital. The dying room, they called it. No one cared if the aliens came for you, because you were likely already dead. The interns were really just there to collect the next batch of fuel.

The man he shoved hit the wall hard enough to shatter bone, his cry of pain eloquent.

Two more interns ran into the chamber, and stared around in confusion.

"What happened? Is that….?"

"Call the doctors," the one told his companion as he locked eyes on Adam just staring at his shaking fists, they were clenched so hard just then. "He must be seizing!"

They both lifted taser rods. The 'humane' way of keeping the sickly and dying in line until they expired, and could end their lives as fodder or fuel.

Three still conscious teens near his own age of sixteen sat up now, staring, and one even gave a weak cheer as Adam charged the pair with intent now as he realized he might just have more of a chance than even he had first realized.

He felt one glowing rod slide over his side, and felt nothing else.

It was as if nothing had ever even touched him.

He could smell the scorched cloth of his thin gown, though, and saw the shock on that burly intern's feet as he recoiled now. He also felt incredibly good at the sheer act of movement, and even that knot of ire was no longer hammering in his chest.

"This is probably going to hurt," he smiled at the man, parroting his dad's apparent favorite adage when treating the volunteers soon to be dying, and slugged the bigger man in the jaw with all his might.

The man screeched as his jaw shattered, and he flew back to hit the wall near the door with enough force to shake the room's foundations. Or so it seemed.

The other man gave up trying to shock him, and just tried to club him down.

The first three blows almost bent the rod over his head. Then Adam caught it, and simply crushed the weapon. Along with the man's hand.

"Nighty-night," he cooed, and backhanded the man hard enough that he went flying through one of the covered windows behind him. As the window was covered in quarter-inch plywood, it was astonishing to those few awake now watching that the man still went right through that panel as if it were no more than tissue.

Adam walked over to stare out into the sunlit vista beyond.

The battered body lay sprawled in the mostly vacant parking lot, not moving.

He lifted both hands as he stood in the light, flexing his hands, and grinning.

"Looks like dear-old-dad actually got something right," he laughed, and then looked to two other teens that were in his group that were looking better now, too.

The taller, stockier boy was one of those sitting up now, and staring incredulously at him. Likely feeling very close to recovered, too.

"You feel it, too," he asked the older boy, as the seventeen year old redheaded girl in the nearest bed next to him risked sitting up now, too. "Don't you?"

The girl just stared, full, perfect mouth no longer drooping, or slack.

The third teen that had been in another group just looked pale and envious, and very close to death despite being conscious just then.

"What….happened to us?" the girl asked him as she shoved the thin sheet aside.

"Dr. Demento's magic juice must have actually worked," the bigger teen exclaimed in realization. "But….shouldn't we be calling someone?"

"No," Adam told him without hesitation.

"No," the girl asked as that one other, still sickly teen looked enviously at them. He had been in another serum group. The other members of his group were already dead. He was very close.

Adam felt a little sorry for him. He had seemed like a nice kid. Only a lot of kids were being sacrificed of late, and he was just lucky he wasn't one of them just then.

"My old man is the one that decided we were….failures," he spat, his anger surging again. "They already wrote us off, and left us to be used as cordwood. Well, I say screw him, and his military pals. All they'd do now is try to use us again. Or cut us up to make better soldiers for their real troops. So, you know what, screw him. I say we do our own thing. Take off, and forget them. It's still a free world. And, if I I'm right, we're now tough enough to make our own way in spite of the bugs. So, you guys in, or what?"

"Hell, yeah," the older boy grinned, and climbed out of bed with a grin.

"Where will we go," the redhead asked quietly as she studied the boys.

"Does it matter? Or do you really want to be a lab rat again, and risk them taking this miracle back, and killing us for real," Adam asked.

"No," she said more forcefully now. "Hell, no," she said, and jumped out of bed, and yelped when her light jump had her crossing a quarter of the room. "Did you see that," she squealed.

"Okay, we need clothes, supplies, and especially weapons. Then we bail," the big teen Adam knew was called Tank grinned.

He was all attitude, and conscripted for the trial because he refused to join the 'security forces' to protect the elite, and was so picked to be a guinea pig. They likely thought he was healthy enough to survive if the process had been refined enough by this time.

"Sounds like a plan, Tank," Adam readily called the teen that refused to be called anything else, even when on his deathbed. "Let's bail before the second team shows."

"Word," the big blonde teen grinned. "Let's go, Red. Time to have fun."

"Fun," the slender redhead with a faint sprinkling of freckles across a pale face asked. "What about….? What about the others," she asked, looking around the makeshift ward.

"I'm afraid there's nothing we can do," Adam told her quietly. "It sucks, but….there it is. We must have been the only ones that got the right stuff, as they used to say. Still, I gave my dad a chance, though, and this is where he put me. His own son. Do you really think he'd care about anyone else? Even now? No, we have to bail, or he'll be dragging us back to his lab for sure. And I am so past done with that."

"I heard what you said," she told him. "When you called him."

"Yeah," he grimaced as they walked to the door. A thick, metal security door that closed behind the interns after they had entered. "That was his last chance, and he blew it."

The door before them wasn't to keep anyone, or anything out. It was to keep them in. It was the last dehumanizing sign that they were now disposable commodities.

"You want the honors," Tank asked her.

"I'm not even sure if I can….."

The redhead grabbed the handle, and pulled.

It broke off in her hand, twisted in two where she seized it, and she stared at it incredulously as she held the mangled lever up.

"How strong are we," she gasped at them.

Tank grinned, flexed his already thick arms, and cracked his already impressive knuckles.

"Let's find out," he winked at them, and drew back a hard fist.

~D~

Dr. Allen Sands woke with a throbbing skull, feeling not unlike an alien had slammed him around in one of their grav-beams, and dropped him from high altitude. His entire body was sharing that undesirable feeling as he tried to understand where he was just then. He heard movement beyond the darkness encasing him, and belatedly realized someone was pulling back rubble that had apparently all but buried him.

His last memory was of his interns screaming over the intercom, and he ran for the door not sure what had happened to set the usually stolid men off.

He was still punching in the key-code to open the security door when he heard someone on the other side. He heard something metallic snap. Then the entire door bowed, and exploded outward in the blink of an eye. That was all he remembered before waking under the rubble that had half buried him.

Just enough to keep him from escaping, but not enough to actually crush him.

He sat up gingerly when he finally saw the men in fatigues pulling away the warped, metal panel, and gaped at the very clear indentation of someone's big fist in the center of that hard steel. As if…..

But that was impossible.

"Dr. Sands," Ethan Taggert himself asked as the gangly elderly researcher eyed him coolly. "What happened here?"

"Good….God," the doctor on death duty rasped as he realized his lobby, and office had not just been torn apart, it had been decimated. He saw several bodies, and knew medicine well enough to know they weren't getting back up. The room had literally been torn apart. A heavy safe that held medicines, and precious resources had been somehow torn open, and the big vault was now empty.

"I take it you were unaware of the events that transpired here?"

"I heard…a cry. Then the door…. I think it exploded."

"After a fashion," one of the men in military uniform drawled. "Dr. Taggert, we have three confirmed missing. Adam Taggert, Thomas Tanberra, and a Penny Collins. All three teens from group Gamma-7. A lost cause, I believe you reported," the man said pointedly with a dark scowl.

"They were," Ethan frowned as he paused to collect his thoughts. "They took the same fever as the others. They were dying. They were brought up to…. To…."

He suddenly paused, eyes lit with realization.

"Sir?"

"Captain, at least fifteen minutes before this….fiasco, I received a call on my private line," Dr. Ethan Taggert said quickly while pulling out his cell. He thumbed a file, opened the folder, and needlessly declared, "I always record my calls, for security purposes."

"Naturally," the crew cut officer nodded as Ethan pressed the play button on the device.

"Dad, it's me," the recording began. The boy sounded breathless, but as he spoke, the captain's eyes narrowed. By the time he declared, "You're an asshole," the captain would have sworn he sounded quite healthy.

"That did not sound like a dying specimen," Captain Anders told him.

"I was distracted," Ethan frowned. "I didn't notice at the time, but…. You're right. Gamma-7 is obviously a success."

"And I can't believe what I've just seen," the squad's comm-tech told them, returning with a hand-held device playing the recently recovered security footage.

All three men stared at the slight teen standing up on screen, and looking around after dusting pieces of an old phone receiver from his hand he had just shattered in his fist.

"Incredible," Ethan murmured.

"It gets better, sir. Or rather, maybe worse," the tech said, and the soldier let them watch the three teens rally after Adam dealt with the three grown interns as if they were children. Then they crashed through the security door, the larger teen literally pounding through it with one punch, and they set to work decimating the main lobby, and putting down any remaining interns without effort before packing up three large duffels. The rest of the death clinic's provisions were distributed to the conscious patients in the next room after the last attendants who came running by then had all been put down with ruthless efficiency.

"Taser rods didn't even slow them down," Captain Robert Anders exclaimed. "Dr. Taggert, tell me you still have that formula."

"Per protocol, the institute scrapped it once we thought it was….ineffective," Ethan swore bitterly. It was a methodology he had long argued against, but in their world, they didn't have time or energy to waste on failure.

Or apparent failure.

"Damn," the other man said in obvious disappointment.

"There is, of course, another way. We simply distill the essence of the serum base from the three specimens," Ethan mused thoughtfully as he eyed the footage again when they rewound it.

The captain stared at him.

"You can do that?"

"Easily. If we can get them back," Dr. Taggert added pointedly.

"That…..may take doing. One of the armored transports left here was taken," a soldier reported as he returned from outside just then.

"Then we simply track the vehicle…."

The man held out a black box with wires dangling from it as the captain trailed off, looking grim.

"They also left the tracking beacon behind," he reported needlessly. "It looks like they just….tore it out."

Ethan stared at the thin indentations in the casing where it looked like very powerful fingers had simply gripped, and pulled at the device until it had shattered.

"Congratulations, doctor," Ethan was told as Captain Anders studied the device, too. "You just gave unimaginable might to a handful of teenagers with attitude."

"My son will do as he is told," he snorted now. "I simply have to contact him…"

"You are referring to the boy that just called you an asshole," the captain asked blandly. "In my experience, sir, that's never a good thing."

Ethan grumbled.

"He always was a disappointment," he complained.

"Can't you just….recreate the serum," Allen Sands asked him as the death room doctor eyed the men, gaping at what was being revealed.

Ethan glowered at him now.

"Gamma-7 was just one of over forty-three currently active serum trials we were running across the nation at the time," he told the man. "Even I don't recall all of its composition completely. Its base might be easily recoverable, but the details of its particular formula were in a deleted file lost when we deemed it unsuitable for future testing."

"Still…."

"Stick to drugging the dead long enough to give them a quiet ending, Sands," Ethan spat impatiently. "And leave the real science to me," he growled before he stalked out of the room.

"Incoming," a soldier abruptly howled, throwing himself back into the room just then, rolling out of the doorway even as something outside exploded. "Everyone brace!"

The first explosion brought more of the roof down, and in the other room, the nearly dead in the dying room had just enough life left to scream.

To Be Continued…..