Freedom of Choice

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 5

THE THING: Year Fifteen

San Francisco General Hospital

Security audio tape 34-333-34

Confidential material redacted per

Homeland Security standing order


Freedom of Choice . . .

Chapter Five:

Good morning and welcome to San Fran General Hospital. Please remove all metal objects from your person and leave them with those tool cases on the conveyor belt. If you're authorized to carry a firearm, please place it and your concealed carry permit into drawer beneath my security window.

Everything, except for the weapon, will be returned after you enter the automatic doors and pass through to the next security point. If you leave a weapon at this station, it will be released upon your departure from this facility. Don't forget to have your parking voucher validated.

Now please turn around and lower you shirt collar. Thank you. Identity tag and bar-code tattoo confirmed legitimate. Please say your name and state your reason for entering this secured area. Speak slowly and clearly into microphone.

John Bakker. I'm on a repair call. My company sent me here to fix some electrical problems you've been having in the basement.

You're on the list, Mr. Bakker. Preliminary login to this facility is now complete. Be aware deadly force is allowed from this point on. Obey all orders while secondary security protocols are in progress. And please stop inside the red circle when you get down to the end of the corridor. The door is open, Mr. Bakker. You have ten seconds before it closes. I suggest you start moving.

Have a nice day!

* * * * * * * *


Hey . . . put the shotgun down!

You don't tell me what to do! Put your arms up! Let me see those hands!

I gotcha! Arms in the air! Could you point that thing at something other than my face?

Weren't you told to stop inside the red circle? Is there something wrong with your memory, Mr. Brown?

Hell, I'm only off by a couple feet. What's the big deal? And my name isn't Brown. It's Bakker.

I know. Lower an arm and place a hand on the scanner plate. No quick moves!

Ahhh . . . which arm?

Your choice, it doesn't matter.


Now input your IDENT code into the keypad.

Can you stop aiming that thing at me first?


I need both hands to type all those symbols.

Go ahead. SLOWLY!!


Welcome to San Fran General Hospital, Mr. Bakker. The elevator leading to the basement levels is at the end of the right hand corridor. Your property has been examined. You will find it outside the elevator when it stops on subbasement floor B1. Warning . . . your authorization expires in six hours. Leave by 1723 hours or return to this security area before that time for re-authorization. Failure to comply may result in the use of deadly force.

Can I go now?

You have five hours, fifty nine minutes and thirty five seconds before you must return.

I'll take that as a yes.

Have a nice day!

< Asshole! >

=I heard that. And I'll be here when you get back.


* * * * * * * *

Hello, anyone here?

Who's asking?

John Bakker, A to Z electrical sent me. A Larry Koosed called the shop and requested a warranty repair. Something about a D-65 power junction panel overloading.

That was me. Turn to your left and go through the third door to the right. I'll walk you to the panel once I'm finished here.

It's pitch black out here. I can't see a thing since the elevator left.

That's the reason I called. That high-tech piece of junk your company installed last year went loco and shut down most of the power on B1. Follow my voice and you'll see my work light soon enough.

Hold on. Let me feel around inside my tool kits. I have a small one in here somewhere . . . let there be light!

Great, now hurry up. I've got a ton of things to do and working in the dark is slowing me down.

On my way! Door number one, two . . . what's the deal with the bars?

They're unlocked. Just pull the bolt and come in. Watch your step.

Whoa! Why is there a cow down here? And why do you have your arm up its butt?! Lose your keys?

Very funny. Like I've never heard that one before. The powers-that-be never tell me shit, which is rather appropriate at this moment. Number Nineteen here showed up early this morning in a livestock trailer with a worksheet stapled to the door. As to what I'm doing, I guess you've never been to a farm.

I've never been this close to a cow either.

I grew up on my dad's dairy farm. Right now I'm palpating the fetus and checking it for proper birth orientation. Just my luck, someone in human resources actually read my file and knew what all my 4H bovine husbandry awards mean.

That still doesn't explain why you're showing a cow a good time.


Because the OB/GYNs upstairs would never demean themselves to deal with a pregnant Holstein, that's why. I'd better get some extra pay for this! The hospital hired me to do household grade maintenance and manage the janitorial staff. Mostly, I run around fixing non-medical things the doctors and nurses break. The complicated stuff is contracted out to companies like yours.

That still doesn't explain why there's a cow in your basement.

Don't know, don't care. The whole sixth floor of this hospital is a government research lab. All kinds of things go on around here that make no sense. Not asking too many questions is practically the law. If you like your internal organs where they are, I suggest you do likewise.

Is that a glove?

Yeah. It goes all the way up to my shoulder. And it's ribbed for her enjoyment.


Relax, Number Nineteen. Good cow, good cow, almost, almost . . . done!

Why do you keep calling her number nineteen?

See that red plastic button stapled to her ear? Every cow is identified by a computer readable ear tag on large commercial farms. It's a lot easier to keep tract of productivity, reproductive schedules, and government mandated vaccination record keeping that way.

So what's next?

I'm going downstairs to the employee locker room on B2 to trash the glove and take a shower. You . . . are going to stay here until I return. Don't go wandering off. I won't be long. And I've removed the hind leg restraints so don't get too close. These things can kick like a mule. I'll be back in around fifteen.

You come here often?


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