Chapter 14, As Perkins and Burns Requested
14: Oh No!
For Thomas the next mishap was not long in coming. His attitude was positive as Thomas took three deep breaths and entered into the room. Vapor trails could be seen on his breath as the climate adjuster responded to his presence.
The lights dimmed as the complex machinery was manipulated. In place of total darkness was what Thomas liked to call,” the swirl” The glow that seemed to grow out of the dark in a spiral motion, forming a spiral, to a helix, to a sparkling nebula. It glowed brightly, filling the chamber. Out of the whiteness first came the audio, then atmospheric sensations, and all the while the simulated vision replaced the physical space before his eyes.
He now expected and anticipated the changes; He was no longer enclosed in the room. Immense space surrounded him as the landscape formed once more. On a good Jump it was the harbor, and most times it was early in the morning, just as the sun would break the horizon.
Thomas knew right away that something was off from the start, as the image was still blurry in front of him.
In the din that formed around him, he could hear as if from afar, tremendous commotion. It sounded familiar: Sirens, screams and honking horns. He felt something pressing against his leg and thigh, “This is something new” He thought. He gave a start as he realized he was dry where he shouldn’t be. Not knowing what to expect, he sucked in his breath, as his vision finally cleared,
“Oh No!” The Jump sequence was complete. He was indeed dry, dry and standing now in the middle of the city! He caught his breath.
Buses honked, sirens wailed, and if he heard correctly, shots were being fired.
”Oh my g-d, Not again. What have they done to me now?” He shuddered to think.
A buildings smoldering remains encircled his right foot. What was left of it was a demolished pile of rubble, his heel buried deep within.
”Did I?” He thought, looking down.
"Um, you guys missed. Get me outta here" Silence on the line. He lifted his right foot. Chunks of rubble fell away. The ground beneath his foot was cracked and depressed, his footprint lay twelve feet deep below the asphalt. Underground lines were severed; to his horror, Tiny cars compressed like thin tin foil, layered the bottom of his footprint where he had materialized. Jet streams of water from broken mains misted his foot. Everything was flattened under his weight. He put his foot back down, taking an unthinking step back. Unwittingly he crushed even more cars and buses and pedestrians. This time he could feel it. There was no way he could avoid stepping on things given his size and position. Panicking crowds swarmed and dashed madly by his feet.
”Oh no, no! I’m sorry little people.” He thought, he had been instructed not to speak. His heart sank. More death, more destruction, and this time from me!
He tried to turn but there was no clearance. His hips nudged a building to his right lightly; it shifted off its foundation, turned and toppled down as if in slow motion, into another heap of smoke and rubble. That one was his fault for sure.
”No!” He cried again. Panic and frustration were beginning to overwhelm him.
Trying to step over the rubble and losing his balance he stumbled back clumsily, crashing into another set of buildings. They didn’t have a chance. The structures tumbled back like dominos, rising billows of smoke and flame as they crumbled. All the while, the screaming continued. A symphony of voices crying, “Noo,” and, “Help.” And mostly “Yaahhhh!” All blended together.
”I’ve got to find a way out of this” He thought, trying to overcome his growing panic. He glanced around hoping for an answer to present itself.
“Doctor, come in, Doctor!” Silence in his head set.
”Come on you idiot!” He chided himself, “Stay cool! use your brain, stop moving, concentrate.” It seemed to calm him down a little, he did a practice breathing exercise.
“Now, get your bearings, look around, find out exactly where you are, look for the landmarks” He glanced around, trying to ignore the commotion going on below.
“OK, I’m Midtown, the city is all around me” Came his desperate answer. “Great!” He spotted a wide boulevard leading up to his position from downtown and recognized it,
“Fifth Avenue” He said. He now searched the landscape for Broadway and 42nd street. “Aha, he said, feeling a little better at regaining his bearings. He looked south, the mighty Empire State building was about two miles further south, and way past it were the twin towers.
Reasoning that if he tried to make it down to the Towers, just visible through the haze to the south, from his current position he would do more damage than the original attack (if he hadn’t already done so.) He had to find a way to fix this situation but there were no solutions, and he couldn’t face another failure. He wanted to sit down, but looking down at the scurrying mobs below, thought for a second and changed his mind.
He found it odd; Usually Doctor Roth was in contact with him by now. He heard nothing coming over the implants.
“Doctor, if you can hear me, pull me out now!” Nothing.
”Maybe I could make it to the East river, its only seven long cross-town blocks to the left, down this narrow avenue, filled with heavy traffic and pedestrians. I can walk down it, destroying every building I pass. Then maybe wade down river and still save the mission” He really didn’t see how he could, and the specter of failure again loomed large. His reasoning and logic had succeeded in reducing his panic a little. Not so for the tiny people. Their city was at the mercy of the giant behemoth planted in the middle of it. Men Screamed and woman passed out in pure terror, just looking at him. The police were already shooting at him.
His ears were sensitized to the commotion going on below, the sounds of cars crashing, horns blaring, police sirens and fire trucks. His composure was a fragile thing. His logical mind told him that there was no real way out of this without killing hundreds. Tears of desperation now blurred his vision.
“I’m doing real good, aren’t I” He shook his head. He looked down to see a tiny man in the crowd run in a panic into the street, only to be hit by a truck. He was acutely aware as the mans blood spattered. He winced,
“Stop it!” He scolded the little people, “I’m not here to hurt you” This they could not know.
“Yeah, I’m doing real good, aren’t I” Thomas reflected, he found himself paralyzed and afraid to make another move.
”Oh sure! I don’t want to hurt you, that’s why I’m stepping on you!” He continued, in an argument with himself.
”I’ve already made a mess of this one!” He was exasperated. He looked down again, this time curiosity was beginning to take a foot hold in his thoughts. It was better then being scared. It was the people at his feet who were scared.
“Did the Doctors flick their switch? Can the people see me, this time” He wondered.
Brushing his tears with his wrist, he observed aghast that people were diving out of the buildings on either side of him.
“Stupid people! You guys must like doing that” He rolled his eyes. On the streets below, they looked up, saw his massive form, and screamed their lungs out. They were terrified of him! “Boo!” He said, they screamed louder. It was inappropriate, but it made him chuckle a little.
“They can see me” He concluded.
If he moved his feet anywhere, people would be stepped on. There was no place he could safely set his foot down without crushing dozens, or even hundreds. Thomas found himself edging back into the grip of panic, fear and worst of all, a paralyzing indecision. He knew he had to do something; suppose this was not just a practice drill, but the real thing. He threw his hands up high in the air and exclaimed to himself,
”I Quit!” There was nothing he could do to save this Jump from disaster, nothing!
“Doctor, Can you hear me?” He spoke again. He received no reply but a static crackle in his headset.
“Pull me out Now ! over”
“Maybe they can hear me” He reasoned, “But I can’t hear them”
He was just about to request to be pulled out again, when he stopped himself short. Leah’s words came back to him.
”Be angry at them.” She said.
"This is hopeless! Another miserable failure"
”Laugh and don’t worry.”
”Sure! Easy for you to say..”
He gave it a thought for a minute, shut his eyes tightly and took a deep breath, counted to ten, then exhaled. Three times he repeated this, then he nodded satisfied: “All right” he said to himself: “Conflict resolved! Those idiots sure goofed this time, It’s not my fault!”
As if a magic spell had been broken, he found himself free of his tensions and guilt. He smiled a not altogether friendly smile, but one of grim resolve.
”Since this isn’t real, and no one is really getting hurt, I might as well take advantage of their miscalculation, and do what I can to try save this mess. That’s what they would want.” He gallantly concluded, speaking out loud to his possibly dead mike.
“Maybe I’ll look around some, explore this situation” He reached way down and picked up from the street, a small delivery truck. It said “Furniture” and was light in his fingers. The driver dove out of the cab, and was killed by the fall. Thomas first examined the tiny truck, I’d love to take this home and show my brother he thought, but I don’t have any pockets. Grinning, he pressed it between his thumb and forefinger. It crushed easily. “OK” , he decided, “The first thing I have to do is walk.” He stood still.
”I’ll do what I can until they pull me out of this mess.”
Glancing to his left, toward the east, he caught another glimpse of the river, beckoning him, glinting and sparkling in the sunlight.
”The East river it will be! That’s my plan.”
With a cooler eye Thomas again surveyed the surroundings. The tiny replica of the city was as real and vibrant as ever. Closing in about him. It’s spires of glass and steel glowing in the sun. The air was chilled with a midmorning September breeze. Towering over all the skyscrapers, his height provided an awesome perspective. He scanned the five boroughs clear to their horizon line, miles away.
”Whatever gets destroyed by me, gets destroyed. It can’t be helped.” He resolved. “It’s only seven city blocks east to the river.” He inhaled deeply.
“Seven doomed city blocks.” He braced himself.
”OK, then, here we go.” Cautiously and slowly he took his first deliberate step. Placing his foot in front of him; he heard the cars honking and the crowds screaming, responding to his movements. It’s no worse then stepping on worms in the rain he thought, and shuddered. “Ewww” It was gross, would he actually feel them being crushed under his bare foot? He suspended his foot above them. Grimacing, he tried not to think about the tiny people who would be crushed. Slowly and cautiously he finally put his foot down, a mob of at least seventy scrambling people perished underfoot. The screaming of the mobs below, loud before when he was standing still, increased in pitch now that they saw he was going to walk.
“They want to scream and panic,” He thought, “ I’ll give them a good reason to scream and panic.” (did his Dad say that?) In some dark way, he felt as if their fears were goading him on to take the next step, he could give them terror without even trying.
At first, the thought of stepping on people repulsed him, he had no choice. He cautiously took his second step. It was easier. Upon reflection, he had to admit the sensation was not altogether unpleasant. Their soft bodies cushioned his steps. Still, he noted, blood spattered from underneath his footfalls. He recalled when Ralph stepped on a ketchup packet. It almost looked the same. Thomas tried to figure how many thousands of tons he must weigh. At first he wanted to take his mind off of his actions, but curiosity and the discovery factor prevailed, and he found himself inadvertently fascinated by his predicament. Wading through the buildings.
"I can live with this.” He encouraged himself to move on. The screaming intensified in anticipation, as he lifted his foot to take his next step. Shrugging his shoulder and gritting his teeth, he took his next step forward, this time carefully placing his foot and gazing down at the carnage and destruction. He tried to guide his foot down, to a place where there was no one beneath, but they were everywhere. Those he could not avoid, he designated as his chosen victims dying for a greater cause; Once again he winced a little as their blood spattered in all directions particularly up from between his toes. He tried to deny it, but thought it looked pretty. Like some of the spatter paintings Nan had shown him at the museum. Then he grinned. The dark side was kicking in. Ralph was goading him on.
”This is unreal!”
Resigned to continue his walk, he justified his change in attitude, “Why not have fun with this? Didn’t Leah say to laugh?” Thomas deliberately toppled over a newspaper kiosk with his big toe, papers and magazines scattered. Thomas smiled with satisfaction, he probed with his toe, next finding a large moving van, with a slight touch of his toe, he overturned it, put his toe on it and squashed it flat.
Fear and dread were gone, replaced by fascination and curiosity. Even this gross error on their part could prove to be a valuable training experience. He rationalized. Still, there was nothing, not even static in his earphones. On his Birthday he wanted to walk onshore, well, here he was, permission granted.
“Permission to step on the people” He asked, there was no response. That must mean OK. He could put his feet anywhere he wanted.
The city continued to astound him in its intimacy. Tremendous details were revealed in every tiny hidden corner. He looked ahead at his destination, and sighed, there was just not enough room on the narrow street, to maneuver, so be it! As he pushed past the office buildings on either side, he tore off the fronts of the buildings. The detail was astonishing.
Walking slowly and deliberately now, he glanced from side to side. He gazed into the top floors of the buildings, looking into the windows. He noted that even slightly grazing the buildings led to major structural damage. Lifting his hand, he traced a line just below the top floor of an office building with his finger. The wall broke away easily. With the slightest push down of his finger, floors collapsed upon each other spilling furniture and people to the streets below. Millions of file cabinets overturned. Papers captured on the wind went flying like birds.
The buildings were packed; People on every floor. People everywhere! There were thousands of them. They were flooding out of the buildings and into the streets. Traffic was hopelessly grid locked ahead of him. Cars honked futilely as the pushing mobs dodged in front and between them.
”Time for an experiment.” He remembered his last experience and reasoned that the doctors would probably approve of his next course of action.
”I might have to sheer off the top of the buildings if I get there late”, he figured, “Lets give it a try over here.” Looking around for a victim he spotted to his right a massive seventy-story office building, it was rectangular and somewhat resembled the Towers. It reached all the way up to his elbow.
He pushed his left hand, palm up and open, into the heart of the metal and glass structure ten stories below it’s top, and lifted his hand. The facade of the structure gave way without resistance and turned to a shower of crystal and brick as it peeled off the framework falling to the ground. Now aggressively grasping the buildings roof with his right hand, he ripped off several stories, revealing the intricate inner structure. It opened up like a hive: Offices, Meeting rooms, restrooms, stairwells and a labyrinth of hallways were exposed. He inadvertently startled! Tiny people were swarming on every floor, even on the floors held in his hands. Dust and papers flew everywhere carried on the newfound breeze. The building now stood with a large gaping hole at its roof where a great chunk of floors had been ripped out. Casually, Thomas dropped the top floors and watched as they crashed, tumbling to the ground on the traffic below. A funny thought hit him.
This was like being in a big cartoon or video game, he found himself inexplicably laughing. Ralph was so right! It feels great being a wicked Giant.
All of his senses were heightened, he was feeling very empowered, excited and a little giddy. Confidently he took a bold step forward and unexpectedly lost his balance. His left foot crashed through an underground cavern; A subway station! He found himself falling backwards awkwardly. He placed his hands behind him and crashed rear end first, onto the roof of a flat topped structure just behind him. It collapsed, seating him like a descending throne. “Going down” He giggled as smoke puffed up from beneath him.
”This is ridiculous!” He found himself seated on the rubble of the ruined building, now on the ground. His butt was down, and his knees were up, he propped himself up, with his arms, his hands flat on the street for support. People were crushed under his hands and his rear. Looking about him at ground level he noted the mobs of tiny people running around everywhere, still pushing and shoving and falling over each other. “Oh yes indeed, they see me” He observed feeling giddy. He glanced between his legs at ground level, and laughed again, slightly embarrassed this time, they are so small, he chuckled. He rolled over onto his knees. Storefront signs and billboards were readable, cars trying to break gridlock jumped the curbs and plowed through the swirling mobs, downed power lines crackled and sparked. It must have looked very much like scene from Hell, for those witnessing it.
In all his practice jumps so far, he had never been so close to the actual people, now they swarmed around him in every direction, They dove from buildings onto him, clinging onto his body, still others were running before his knees, the unfortunate ones trapped under his enormous frame. Another thought crossed his mind;
”I wonder what it would feel like to hold a few.” He knew he would be called upon to handle the terrorists, and not too gently at that! That was part of the plan! Knowing that he would do it in his later jumps he reasoned, “I might as well take advantage of the situation now.”
Emboldened by his freedom, he first reached down, and tried to pick up an individual. He could see it was a woman in a blue dress, she was so tiny. As he lifted her, she was crushed between his fingers. Small blood specks spotted the tips of his fingers.
“Nuts” He said. He reached down again, and tried to lift up another screaming person, this time a fat man. This one faired a little better but also ended up crushed in his fingers.
“Dang!” He said. They are just too soft. This wasn’t working! He decided to change his strategy. If I can’t pick up one, maybe I can pick up a handful. Thomas carefully swept up a hand full from the street scooping them up into his palm. That worked better. He observed their intricate detail: Clothing colors and patterns, age differences, size and gender, all different and all individual, some had fallen on his palm and tried to stand up. He found himself again startled by the meticulous detail. Not a single one of them was larger then an eighth of an inch, but that eighth of an inch was packed with detail. Arms, legs and limbs, hands with fingers, faces with expressions, in this case horror.
”Wow, I’m holding a hand full of people!” He mused, “About thirty struggling little ones, scooped up from the street, now terrified in my palm.
”It feels soo weird,” he thought, “Like so many bugs. what am I going to do with them?”
He remembered as a little boy, the time he put his hand on an anthill. Ants were all over his hand and crawling up his arm. His Mom made him rinse his hands with the garden hose.
From that time, as a little boy, he never did like bugs. He looked with wonder at the people in his hand,
“Hello” He thought, He tilted his hand, so that they would fall off. Some did, some onto the street, and others fell onto his lap. The remainder clung to his hand, which to the tiny people, afforded more hand holds then Thomas could imagine. He again tried shaking them off but they clung, just like the ants.
”Get off!” he warned, instead they screamed and screamed.
“All right, you’re all dead meat” He thought, and he closed his fist upon them. The people, became red mashed specks in his grasp.
”Eww!” He thought, looking at their remains, he wiped his hand on his thigh leaving a long red stain, “That’s really awful, it looks just like when I made hamburgers. “This is really gross! too much detail if you ask me!”. He dared not admit that he enjoyed it. He reached down to the street to get another handful when he heard something, something in the headphones.
A static filled buzzing in his ear cleared a little, a voice was asking,
” ello, do you hear me? What’s happening Thomas? Are you OK?”
Suddenly he didn’t want to tell Doctor Roth what happened, he wanted to stay and explore.
”Nothing Doc” He said seriously, “Just a slight slip up, Can you hear me? Nothing I can’t handle, over.”
“We can hardly hear you Thomas, are you OK?”
“I’m OK Doctor” He said, he realized he was breathing heavily.
”By the way,” he added, “I’m getting too much interference to hear you very well.” That much was true.
“..re working on it now...alk to you later continue what you are doing” Came the garbled response.
”I’ll report back in five minutes, over.”
He hoped they would give him some more time. Thomas knew that they could monitor his body functions, his breathing and his heart rate, but they could not see him, nor know what he was doing. They had to rely upon his reports.
“Roger” Came the distorted response. We are also experiencing difficulty hearing you Thomas, but we will give you the time you need,” The voice was crackly with static then it broke off again, leaving silence. He was alone again.
Thomas exhaled in relief, he could scarcely make out what was said, but he was glad he would be given more time, to explore. He turned his attention back to his handful of tiny people. He lifted his hand before his face. Those on his hand were stricken as they saw his giant face loom before them. It was inconceivable that something so huge could be real and alive, but there he was! His look was neither angry nor cruel, just curious.
“Goodbye” He said, he again closed his fingers on the people in his hand, a little slower this time, and closer to his eyes, to see how easily their bodies were ruined. When the last of the screaming stopped, he opened his hands again and wondered if they were as real and detailed under their clothing. He couldn’t tell from the crushed remains. Brushing himself off, he stood up. His bottom was caked with cement, crushed bodies, twisted girders of steel that more resembled bent wax, and debris of all kind. He brushed off his rear.
Finding his way to his feet once more, He decided to take a detour south. He now stood close to a familiar tall spire, almost chest high; the Chrysler building with it’s distinct Art Deco spire, he measured his open palm against its top, his palm was at least five stories tall. “Pretty Building” he would spare this one.
With growing abandon, he now found himself intentionally placing his feet onto the mobs below. Deliberately crushing the fleeing throngs of panicking people, and mashing them to paste.
“Yes Ralph,” He dialogued with himself, “It feels great to be so huge and powerful Mua Haa haaa haaa” He continued his walk, turning again toward the river. It couldn’t be helped! they were like so many ants darting in his path. He trampled them now with abandon.
”I’m sorry, I’m sorry, not!” He thought.
Emboldened and savoring his new found terrible power of destruction, he could no longer feel any sympathy for the simulated masses below, no matter how real they looked, felt and acted. It was altogether unimaginable what they might be experiencing.
”Step, step, step,” He said, crunching everything along the avenue, detouring again from his path, now for the thrill of it, and no longer worrying about causing damage. A tall rectangular building with lots of windows standing as high as his belly button, stood before him, Thomas decided to walk right through it.
“G-dzila doesn’t do detours!” He raised his hands over his head as he did so, letting his belly do all the work. He plowed through the building easily. Amused as people on the front side of the building dove out their windows as he pushed on through. “Like a piece of Cake!” He thought, exiting through what was left of the structure. People continued to dive from the doomed edifice. Then his belly pushed through competing the job. The remains of the building crumpled about his legs. At his feet, red mud like ooze seeped up between his toes.
”Here comes Thomas the Terrible Giant, Look out below!” Another large group of tall buildings blocked his path,
“OK he said, you can be next” He once more defiantly pushed his body through the buildings blocking his path. Bringing them down with his hands knees and thighs. They gave no resistance as they crumbled around him. People sitting deep in the buildings offices found the walls being pushed in by the moving wall of the giants’ body. Thomas found the sensation tremendously stimulating, “G-dzilla and King Kong were nothing, compared to me. Nothing at all!”
How could he describe it to Ralph? It’s like walking on crackers and grapes, or stepping on eggshells and mushrooms It was like both.
Smashed vehicles, debris and gory remains clung like armor to the soles of his feet, and plastered his legs and thighs. He shuffled, raising clouds of dust and smoke. He knew he was going to be pulled soon. I will need to clean up, He thought, gazing at the river, now a few blocks ahead.
Wanting for a closer view of the streets, he stooped down first on his hands and knees, and then falling to his belly, crawled on all fours as he approached the rivers edge; He then stood up again. He was a boy as tall as a mountain. He was magnificent and invincible. His sixteen hundred foot tall mass dominated the cityscape. He brushed off some of the caked dust from his thighs legs and belly. He looked back from where he had started. A path of destruction had been torn through their city.
If the simulated city folk could indeed comprehend what was happening, they would describe their experience thus:
An incredible force of power and destruction as yet unknown to man, in the shape of a gigantic naked eleven year old boy, had just walked through their bustling Metropolis leaving behind a path of smoldering ruins, skeletal remains of mighty skyscrapers, and thousands of people crushed and maimed. Thomas brushed his hands together. Mission just about complete. He knew he would never make the Towers.
Thomas was making excuses in his mind about what he would report at the War Room debriefing. Reality would have to wait. With a half kick, he sent his foot through a brick apartment building on the river. As people rushed out, he mashed them into the sidewalk, as he had seen a lady grinding out a cigarette on the pavement under her shoe. It’s OK! I’m angry He justified.
At rivers edge by his feet, lay one of the many multi-span bridges he had been so careful to step over on his birthday Jump. He recklessly placed his bare foot on it now. The steel spans snapped easily as the bridge buckled and fell under his enormous weight, cars plummeted into the waters.
Given his enormous size, he could destroy the entire city and leave nothing standing in one days time.
Reason at last intruded upon his actions; He shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, even though he felt thoroughly exhilarated.
”Be angry at them!” Leah had said.
As a last gesture of disdain for the tiny people who could not protect themselves, or for the scientists whose blunder placed him in this predicament, he maneuvered a crowded bus between his toes, It’s horn blasting, and crushed it like foil. It was his last symbolic act of destruction, and he knew he would never have the opportunity again, nor would he want it. His anger was gone. He savored the entire experience that this Jump had provided. He would play back it’s details, laying in his bed at home at night. He couldn’t wait to tell Ralph.
”The Doctors were right.” He finally concluded, “What an incredible weapon I could be if called upon, and what a disaster it would be if the enemies of America ever got a hold of this technology!” He dove into the cleansing waters of the Sound to rinse off any evidence of his rampage before they pulled him out, which he expected was coming any second. He was right.
Back at the control center, both Dr Tsuranagi and Dr Roth, were out of communication for a good hour and forty five minutes. They established brief communication, and had it cut off again. Twelve minutes after that, they were certain they heard Thomas laughing through the static, and it didn’t sound good. The gauges monitoring his vital signs were doing back flips. He’s had over an hour and a half, without any significant communication established, What shall we do?”
Doctor Mendel swiveled his chair directly to the controllers,
”End the mission, bring him back, Now!”
Dr Haley and Dr Fong approached him as the doors opened, they noticed that Thomas was flushed, wet and breathing heavily.
”We screw up again? Asked Dr Fong, Handing Thomas the robe, Thomas nodded with the hint of a smile.
Although they couldn’t see what he saw and the audio was scuttled, they could tell by his monitors how he was affected by his actions, he would have to answer to a very concerned Dr Mendel, later at the debriefing.