The New Millennials: Running the Gauntlet
Wayne Purdy
Six teens answer a casting call to star in a new reality television series produced by the ... Show More
Genres:
Adventure, Sci Fi, Superhero, Thriller, Young Adult
Tags:
serial fiction, serial, novel, the ink-stained wretch

Loggia

     Dr. Pauer’s lab was an outward reflection of the man himself; orderly, organised, practical, and efficient. Nothing was out of place and all the surfaces gleamed with an industrial sheen. Pauer maintained everything on his own, Mr. Loggia knew. The doctor wouldn’t allow Miss French down here in the bowels of the mansion to clean. He didn’t trust her to contaminate any of the delicate machinations of his equipment with her efforts. Besides, Pauer didn’t like the woman much because of her race. Mr. Loggia knew when he hired the doctor that the man was an avowed racist but the man’s personal beliefs didn’t matter much to him. Their goals coincided, at least in the short term. Dr. Pauer may pose a threat to his plans sometime further down the road. If that happened, he would simply eliminate him. Mr. Loggia didn’t have friendships. He had business partners, and sometimes partnerships had to be dissolved. No hard feelings.

     He pressed the touch screen on Dr. Pauer’s desk and data from the Treatment appeared. Miss French accompanied him, but stood in the background, surveying the one area that she was barred from entering. She said nothing and touched nothing, but watched the doctor with a careful wariness. Perhaps her feelings for him were mutual? Mr. Loggia reviewed the data, scanning the readouts meticulously. He didn’t understand all the scientific mumbo-jumbo; there were few on the planet that could, but he got the gist of it. The treatment was a success.

     “I’m sure you will agree, Mr. Loggia that my procedure went according to plan.”

     “What is it I’m looking at, Dr. Pauer?”

     Pauer scoffed and Mr. Loggia took note of the man’s unhidden contempt. “The children’s young bodies experienced an extinction event at the cellular level. Their genomes have changed, mutated. Even still, the body isn’t ready to give up its secrets, not yet anyway. The Children need to undergo a severe trauma - physically or emotionally.”

     “Leave that to me. That’s exactly what Phase 2 was designed for. Are you certain it will work?”

     “As certain as can be with an untried and untested experiment.” The doctor paused for a moment before speaking again. “If this goes the way I expect it to,” he said, “I expect to be handsomely paid.”

     “I always pay my debts, Herr Doctor,” he replied in a menacing tone. “May I remind you that before I found you, you were hiding in South America, performing illegal surgeries in a filthy hovel? Your license had been revoked. What was it that they called you? Oh yes, I remember - El Científico Loco – The Mad Scientist! Were I a less charitable man, I might suggest that it is you who owes me a debt.”

     Pauer flew into a rage. “I am not a man to be trifled with,” he screamed. Flecks of spittle sprayed from his mouth. “I am the heir to the accumulated knowledge of the Third Reich!” Pauer moved threateningly towards Mr. Loggia, his hands balled into fists. Miss French moved protectively, intending to put herself between the doctor and her employer. Mr. Loggia gave her an almost imperceptible wave, and she retreated into the background. Her body language suggested that she was ready to move at a moment’s notice if needed.

     “You are suffering from delusions of grandeur,” Mr. Loggia said in a calm voice. “You are a second rate scientist with a broken moral compass. Any breakthroughs you have made were because you are completely devoid of the ethics that constrain more reputable doctors, and you have had access to nearly unlimited funds, my funds. You will be paid for your services as agreed because I am a business man. It is simply good payments to honour contracts. What you do after that is not my concern. Do as you will; create your Aryan army, clone your Führer, or whatever petty plans you have. It matters not to me, just so long as our plans don’t intersect.”

     Dr. Pauer stared at Mr. Loggia. His colour rose and his nostrils flared, but recognising his own impotence, he turned on his heel and stormed out of the laboratory. Mr. Loggia smiled. Another successful negotiation, he mused.

     The next evening, Mr. Loggia stood aboard a hovering disc above a large room, a converted Olympic-sized gymnasium. The stands were once again filled with a live studio audience. People had queued in a line, some for more than a day, for tickets. They weren’t cheap either. The Gauntlet was the hottest ticket in town. Of course Mr. Loggia didn’t need the money. He spent more on his socks, but the show bought him something else, something intangible. He enjoyed a prestige that he hadn’t usually enjoyed, and the narcissist in him relished the attention.

     The hover-disc was his own invention, on paper anyway. He told his tech department what he wanted and they were able to manufacture it. His employees knew to well the penalty for failure. He was able to control it depending on the direction he leaned, much like a Segway. It hovered when he pressed or depressed a button that was attached to his gloves using Bluetooth technology. He knew it could be marketed for billions but he refused. This toy was for him and him alone.

     The gymnasium had been retrofitted into an exact duplicate of the Ditko Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison that housed the baddest of the bad. The kids were in separate, segregated units but with clear, Plexiglas walls facing the large open hallway so they could watch the action. On the opposite end of the cinderblock corridor, a lone door was situated. A dozen iSpys flew around, capturing the scene in as many angles and broadcasting it for the television viewers. Tonight’s show was Must See TV, and that knowledge titillated Mr. Loggia.

     “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began as the live audience hushed, “I am Mr. Loggia and this is G-Pop!” He opted to not call it Phase 2 for the audience; it was too boring, too pedestrian. “I have used my considerable influence to pull some strings with Governor Quesada for the release of 6 inmates from the penitentiary. These men and women are not good people.” The audience gasped and Mr. Loggia grinned. “That’s right. These are criminals, murderers, thieves, and arsonists. They are rotten to the core.”

     A large jumbotron flashed on, displaying an image of the man Brock had already met. It was a mugshot. He was bald with a neck tattoo and a scornful sneer. Sturm: multiple murders, read the words superimposed on the screen. Several people in the audience booed. They recognised Sturm from his violent spree several years ago. He’d left several people dead in his wake, including a policeman and a child. Another image appeared. This time it was a woman. She had short red hair, green eyes, and a spattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose. She might have been attractive had her eyes not betrayed her. The woman was clearly unhinged. Meg: Arson, murder, the words read. Next came a skinny, gaunt man, with unruly hair, missing teeth, and sunken cheeks. He had clearly lived a difficult life, one that was based in poverty and hardship. He had the looks of a man that had never been given anything in his life, including kindness or love. Cline: murder, theft, assault, drug dealing.

     A nervous energy ran through the audience. These were dangerous people, and they knew it. Another face popped up onto the jumbotron. It was a large black man. He was obese, a roll of fat on his forehead threatened to bury his eyes. He may have been smiling but it was hard to tell, his cheeks were so blubbery they nearly obscured his mouth. Garret: murder, kidnapping. Another face, this time a woman, she had long dark hair, brown eyes, and a smirk that broadcast her disrespect very clearly. Sousa: murder, theft, fraud. Another final face appeared. This was a woman that looked as if she could grace a magazine cover. Her strawberry blonde hair was perfectly styled. Her make-up looked like it was done professionally. She was a bombshell. Jeri: murder, burglary, larceny, aggravated assault.

     “Their job is simple,” Mr. Loggia said, after the jumbotron flashed the last image. “They are to stop our contestants from reaching the safety of the other side of the door at the end of the corridor. By any means necessary.” The audience shivered as one. “The first contestant has been chosen.” Mr. Loggia paused for dramatic effect. “Brock. You’re up.”

     The Plexiglas wall on Brock’s seg unit slid open. He stood there unsure of what to do for several seconds. “Brock, run,” Victoria yelled.

     “That’s not bad advice,” Mr. Loggia said. Brock broke into a sprint, making a beeline for the door. One of the prison doors swung open and Sturm stepped out from behind the iron bars.

     “I’ve been looking forward to knocking you down a peg or two,” Sturm said. Brock skidded to a stop as Sturm blocked the middle of the corridor. Unwavering, Brock dropped into a three point stance, relying on his football skills.

     “You’ve got to catch me first,” Brock said. He ran towards Sturm, and then deked at the last moment Just as the older man’s fist swung towards him. Sturm missed and punched the empty air but recovered quickly. He pivoted and jabbed at Brock’s lower back, delivering a violent kidney punch. Brock fell to the ground but jumped to his feet before Sturm could hit him again. “That was a cheap shot,” he said, winded.

     “There’s no such thing,” Sturm said. “In a scrap, there’s only winners an’ losers. And I ain’t never been a loser.”

     “I doubt that,” Brock murmured. The crowd erupted into laughter. They began to chant Brock’s name. One girl held aloft a sign that said: I ♥ Brock. It flashed onto the giant screen. The encouragement seemed to energise Brock. He feigned a punch with his right hand and landed a left cross. Stunned, Sturm let his guard down, and Brock took advantage, laying a flurry of blows on the bigger man’s face.

     “Brock has Sturm on the ropes,” Mr. Loggia said, commentating on the action. Eventually Sturm got his hands up, blocking the punches before delivering a haymaker of his own. Brock fell to the ground again. “But Sturm is far from out of this yet!” Mr. Loggia said. Brock tasted copper and spat blood out. Staring up at Sturm, Brock felt a rage growing from deep within his belly. Sturm answered the chorus of boos with an obscene gesture directed towards the onlookers. Then it hit Brock. He knew why he hated the man so much. He reminded him of his father. Screaming, Brock leaped at Sturm, and they both toppled to the concrete ground in a tumult.

     “Looks like Brock got the jump on Sturm,” Mr. Loggia said, his voice transmitted through the gymnasium’s speakers. The audience cheered wildly. Brock straddled the older man, raining punches down on him. Sturm was unable to fight off the enraged teen. “We can’t have this,” Mr. Loggia said. At that, two more cell doors opened up. Garret and Meg stepped out. Meg was carrying a baseball bat wrapped in barb wire, taking practice swings like a major leaguer in the warm-up circle. Garret held a hand-made shiv in his chubby hands. Brock never saw them coming. The audience began booing.

     “It’s like the man said,” Mr. Loggia told the objecting people in the stands. “There’s no rules. Only winners and losers.” The crowd booed harder. “Reality television just got real,” he said, flashing his biggest cat-ate-the-canary grin.

     “Look out behind you,” Victoria yelled but her warnings were drowned by the cacophonous jeers from the stands. Elisabeth’s face appeared on the jumbotron. She was hiding her eyes behind her hands, an action many in the audience shared. Meg took a swing at Brock’s back. The bat connected with a resounding thud and the barbed wire bit into his flesh hungrily. He screamed and rolled onto the ground. Garret, slow moving because of his enormity, joined the fray. He fell on top of Brock, stabbing him with the sharpened end of his homemade weapon. Sturm, having shaken off the cobwebs, jumped on, punching the boy with all his might. The crowd became silent. The only sounds to be heard were the landing of blows and Brock’s agonised screams. Carter was pounding on his Plexiglas, hoping to break free, but he wasn’t strong enough.

     After several long moments of a vicious beating, it looked like Brock was beaten. He wouldn’t make it to the door. It wasn’t clear if he’d even survive. Then, Garret was thrown into the air. The voluminous man was propelled a dozen feet into the air. Sturm followed, somersaulting uncontrollably before colliding with the cinder wall. Brock rose up. He wasn’t touching the ground, his feet standing in air. He was flying. Surprised, Meg swung the bat at him. Brock put out his hand, catching it in mid-arc. With a squeeze, the bat splintered and fell to the crowd. Meg turned and ran back into her cell, trying to close the door behind her. Sturm stood up. He was groggy and unsteady. He looked at Brock, bathed in the light from the iSpys and showered with adulation and he became lost in his own rage. He ran towards the boy, head down and fists clenched. Brock in a pique of frenzy, punched a hole in the cinderblock wall, fragments of concrete fell to the ground. Undeterred, Sturm kept coming. Brock punched him. Sturm was unconscious before he even hit the ground.

     “This is incredible. He’s a star,” Mr. Loggia said and the crowd went crazy. He’s a superstar!”

     Brock flew over to his foe, and stood above him. Sturm was beaten and no longer a threat. Still, Brock wanted to finish him. Kill him. He could now. It would be so easy. He could snap his neck like a dry twig. But Brock was better than that. Better than his father too. He waved to his friends. “I’m okay,” he told them. Then he walked along the corridor and went through the door.

     Mr. Loggia couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. It worked! It looked like Phase 2 was a success!
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 1/16/2016 6:17:33 PM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    1/16/2016 11:33:45 PM
    Oh, Pauer is definitely going to be a major problem later on. No doubt about it. We got a great Brock battle here, with all the action choreography of a comic book fight ... Show More
    • Wayne Purdy Found the nerd! Just kidding, Andre. I'm a lifelong comic fan (nerd) and this story is clearly heavily influenced by comics. I've dropped several references so far and will continue to. Hopefully, the readers find it as much fun as I do. As for Brock, I always intended for him to be the Alpha male and have him always strive to better himself.
      1/16/2016 11:56:29 PM