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Rated: ASR · Fiction · History · #2282170
Short story from prompt
The general surveyed his troops. Each batch was worse than the last. He sighed to himself, he was tired. The battle in the Pacific was not going well and he'd be damned if he was going to send any of these scrawny kids until they were carved out of mahogany.

The smallest on the end began to hiccup, his broken glasses jumping off his too large nose with every spasm. Through it he stood stock still and ever to attention, a look of steel in his eyes. Huh, thought the general, maybe I could do something with this.

A particularly violent hiccup shook the ranks, causing more than a few snickers. The general glanced at the boy and saw wisps of smoke drifting from the kid's mouth. He shook his head, he must be tired.

'At ease gentlemen, I want this base cleaner than a whore on Sunday. You hear me? Dismissed.' He grabbed the hiccuping boy aside. 'What's your name son?'

'Tibbits, sir, Paul Tibbits.' The boy hiccuped again and the general could have sworn he smelled smoke.

‘Why did you enlist?’

‘Sir?’ Tibbits asked, his voice wavering as he continued to hiccup.

‘Why are you fighting, son?’ A good look at the boy revealed a frame more appropriate for scaring off crows than the Japanese.

The boy hiccuped once more (was that smoke?), ‘Well sir, I guess it’s what I’m supposed to be doing, right? We gotta defeat Tojo before more men die.' For a moment the General saw the boy’s eyes glaze over followed by a sharp refocus. ‘I can’t do nothing, sir. I know I ain’t much but I can do something.’

The General smiled, ‘I was hoping you’d say that. Follow me.’

Paul followed the General in nervous silence until they reached a building he had never been to, this whole part of the base was new to him.

‘ID’, said the grunt at the door. The General flashed his badge. ‘He doesn’t have clearance,’ he barked, cocking a thumb in Paul’s direction, ‘I’ll have to get it cleared with the Brass.’

‘Son,’ the General began, his face barely masking a font of rage he seemed to have at all times. 'This boy is with me so unless you want to spend the rest of your service scrubbing latrines in Micronesia, I suggest you let us in.’

Gulp, ‘Sir, yes sir.’ With a nod and a salute, they passed the checkpoint.

The inside of the building was a stark white, television screens bigger than Paul had ever seen were hanging on every wall, each one displaying some combination of letters and numbers Paul could not understand. Busy-looking men in lab coats shuffled around inspecting microscopes and messing with beakers.

The General smiled at Paul’s confusion and lit an unfiltered cigarette, ‘We call this the Omelette Bar, cause of all the eggheads.’

‘Laugh all you want General’ said a mousy man in glasses waving away the acrid smoke, ‘But these ‘eggheads’ are going to win you this war.’

A sincere laugh erupted from the General, ‘True enough,’ he said blowing smoke at the small bespectacled man. ‘Tibbits, this is Dr Hoskins, he has been working on something very special for some time.’ He paused to look again at Paul, ‘Doc, this kid could be the one we’re looking for.’

Dr Hoskins looked Paul up and down, another hiccup shocked Paul’s diaphragm. The doctor sniffed the air, ‘How long have the hiccups been bothering you?’ Without waiting for an answer he pulled off his stethoscope and began probing Paul and checking for who knows what.

‘A day or so,’ Paul shrank away from the cold instrument but the Doc would not be deterred.

‘Hey, Sanders!’ Dr Hoskins called to a large balding diligently typing into one of the many screens. ‘We got a live one here!’

‘The last live one you brought me isn’t anymore’, said the man without looking up.

‘Don’t remind me,’ he turned to Paul, ‘Still haven’t gotten the stains out of the canteen.’ He took another long listen to something in Paul’s guts. ‘All the same, get over here.’

The man at the screen sighed and began his own cold, invasive Paul-probing. ‘Huh,’ he said as he felt nodes in Paul’s neck and listened to the sounds of his body with an ever increasing curiosity. He took a step back and lit a cigarette and addressed the General, ‘We’ll need more tests but maybe.’

‘Do it’, the General commanded.

‘Have you had any odd symptoms lately?’ Asked Dr Hoskins, reading off a form, ‘Acne, kidney stones, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, painful hiccups, erectile dys…’

‘The hiccups, yes.’

Dr Hoskins checked a box and nodded.

An hour and a dozen tests later he had every fluid in his body tested and weighed for god knows what, he was put in a tube with a camera to see his bones, and had his teeth measured individually. Without ceremony he was placed in a vast sterile room with a paper gown. Time passed in its way, carelessly and ceaselessly. He was alone with his hiccups.

Finally the General entered with a flock of men in lab coats, including the two with whom Paul had become intimately familiar. None of the men acknowledged Paul as they huddled around a microscope and muttered to themselves. Paul heard the words ‘unstable’ and ‘volatile’ more than he would have liked. Paul heard the large Dr Sanders say to the General, ‘A week at most.’

‘Will someone tell me what’s going on?’ Shouted Paul. The men turned around, almost surprised to hear from him. They glanced around at each other for a minute before the eyes landed on the large balding man, Dr Sanders, smoking fervently.

Dr Sanders exhaled casually and showed Paul the microscope slide. ‘In your blood there is a highly unstable compound.’

‘What?!’ Paul exclaimed suddenly feeling queasy. ‘How did that get in there?’

‘Oh we put it in all the grunts,’ Sanders explained calmly. ‘Yours is just the first to react.’

‘You did what?’

‘The point, son,’ began the General, ‘is you are now in a greater position than anyone to help your country.’

Fear raced confusion in Paul’s mind, it was currently a tie. ‘Help how? What are you talking about?’

‘Follow me,’ the General commanded. Paul hesitated but did not think this was the time to begin dissension. He followed the General in silence for some time.

Enormous hangar doors opened on a beautiful Boeing superjet, ‘Son, this here is the Enola Gay, and you’re going to stop this war.’

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