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Interlock: Interlock (Part 1)

by Mr.RMA

Mr.RMA Michael always had a desire to explore the extraordinary, but never could he have preconceived the fantastic series of events that would change his life forever...events triggered by his own two hands.
Howard was pacing around the hallway of the maternity ward, anxious, sweating, and unable to sit still for more than a second. He had stood right by his wife, Marie, for the entire long, painful process, and upon seeing his newborn son for the first time, he had experienced the same feeling of absolute joy he had felt just three years prior with the birth of his daughter. It felt like a true miracle that they somehow managed to get two children when the odds of even getting one seemed against them medically, and that’s why, when the obstetrician said he needed to examine the child in private for a moment, Howard had started feeling nervous. Was the baby going to be healthy? Was he going to have any defects? Did he make a mistake trying for another child? The questions rushed through his mind like a chaotic whirlwind, and the answers weren’t coming anywhere near as quickly as he would’ve hoped. Marie had told him to wait outside to meet the doctor upon his return, seemingly just as antsy as he was (though understandably a little too tired to exhibit the same amount of emotion), and though he was reluctant to leave her side, he complied, and this latest waiting game had commenced. He wasn’t going to be able to handle much more of this, and he was beginning to debate with himself over seeking out that doctor when, thankfully, the man finally came back, with the baby sleeping quietly in his arms.

“I’m sorry for taking so long, Mr. Tourniquet. Just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any potential issues that could possibly affect him later,” the doctor explained apologetically as he gently handed the baby over to the father.

“Oh, that’s all right, doctor, I’m glad you’re putting so much effort into it…H-he’s okay though, right? Nothing’s… wrong?” Howard questioned, trying to sound as professional as he usually did, even as tears continued to well up in his already bloodshot eyes.

“As far as I can tell, your child is perfectly healthy. No notable issues were detected.” The doctor’s words were complete and utter music to Howard’s ears, and had he not been holding onto such precious cargo, he would’ve hugged the man right then and there.

“Thank you so much, sir…” He said, no longer able to hold back the tears that were now streaming down his weathered cheeks.

“Congratulations, Mr. Tourniquet, I’m sure Michael is in the best of hands,” the doctor responded with a nod before turning and walking in the opposite direction down the hallway as Howard went back into the room with his waiting wife. As the doctor made his way towards the elevator at the far end of the hall, one of the nurse-midwives who had assisted him in the delivery quickly rushed to his side.

“Dr. Pagett, did you tell him?” She asked, as she quickly caught her breath, having rushed out of the room in a sprint to catch up with him.

“About what?” Pagett inquired, though he almost certainly knew exactly what the young lady was implying.

“The mark on his brain, sir! You know we still haven’t been able to detect just what that is!” she answered back, struggling to keep from shouting and alarming the rest of the staff.

“I’ve looked that mark over extensively…It’s harmless, certainly nothing to worry the family about,” Pagett calmly answered back as he stepped into the opening doors of the elevator and pressed the button to the lobby.

“But how can we be certain if we don’t know what it is?” the nurse asked, still noticeably concerned about the whole thing. However, Pagett simply placed his right hand to his heart and his left hand in the air, as if he were about to testify in court.

“You have my word, that boy is perfectly normal. Rest assured there won’t be any problems with Michael Tourniquet in the future,” the doctor said with a subtle grin as the door closed.

A decade came and went…

"I just never saw you as a scientist, Mike. No offense or anything."

Two boys sat on adjacent swings, separated from all the childish shenanigans of their peers as they conversed, perhaps sounding a little too mature for their years when it came to the subject at hand, the age-old question of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Michael Tourniquet wasn't too surprised by his friend's response when he had stated he was interested in biology, even grinning at this latest remark in understanding.

"I know, I don't look like I belong in one of those lab coats, do I? Still, I think it would be pretty cool studying all kinds of animals and stuff like that. Just imagine, Ray, all the places I would travel to as well!" His eyes began to light up at this prospect, and Ray could only chuckle at this, having heard this all many times before.

"You just really wanna get outta here, don't you? This little town just ain't good enough for you anymore?" he said humorously as they both pushed off the ground and began swinging back and forth.

"It's not like I don't like where I live, I just want to see, well, all the other stuff! We always read about far off lands and mysterious places, and I want to be able to say I've seen those places firsthand," Michael said as they both began to slowly gain more and more altitude.

"Most of those places are pure fantasy, Mike. They don't really exist," Ray felt inclined to remind Michael, a boy who tended to have his head up in the clouds on a regular basis and just as often needed to be grounded back to reality.

"So then I'll find places like them that are real! There are so many places to look, and I want to see ‘em for myself," Michael answered back, swinging higher and higher until he couldn't bring himself any further upward, at which he flung himself off his seat and attempted to land on the mulch below on his feet, only to stumble and fall on his back. Ray chose to come to a more conventional stop, letting his feet dig into the mulch to stop his momentum as he pushed himself back up, laughing at his pal’s attempted stunt all the while.

“Hope you get a little more agile before you go on this adventure of yours, you big clutz,” he said, offering a hand to help pull Michael back up onto his feet.

“Ha ha…” Michael muttered as they both walked through the blacktop leading them back to the school. “You know, we spent all this time mocking my dreams that we haven’t even gotten to yours yet!” he said at the realization, looking over to Ray.

“Well, I dunno what I want to do specifically yet, but…I think it’d be cool to work on robotics or something,” Ray responded with a shrug, only to get a scoff out of his pal.

“And you make fun of my goals? You’re stuck in your sci-fi fantasies!” Michael exclaimed, but Ray didn’t laugh at this.

“I’m serious, Mike…humanlike robots aren’t just the stuff of movies anymore. My dad tells me that scientists are making them more advanced every day. I want to be one of those guys that make a big breakthrough, and I know I have the ability to do it.”

Michael stopped fooling around when he realized Ray meant what he said. “You are pretty darn smart, I’ll admit. If that’s what you want to do, then more power to ya,” he said, giving Ray an encouraging pat on the back.

“I can always count on you, can’t I, Mike?” Ray said as his smile returned.

“So long as I can count on you,” Michael answered back as they made it inside, back to class.

The two had been friends for many years…and both were the only true friend the other had. They were social misfits of sorts, with Michael simply too awkward to really hit it off with a lot of people, and Ray being so intellectually gifted that he tended to intimidate most of the other kids…or prove excellent bullying fodder for them. All the same, they were both satisfied with having at least one pal to always turn to, no matter what, and they hoped their friendship would remain for the inevitably difficult changes in the years ahead as their elementary school days came to an end…Unfortunately for them, this would prove to not be the case…

Seven more years

Michael had just finished cleaning out his locker for the last time when he spotted a familiar face pass by: Alone, by himself, trying to remain undetected as per usual. Quickly slamming his locker door shut, the young man quickly ran to his old friend’s side.

“Hey, Ray! Just finished my last exam! Pretty sure I nailed most of it. How’d you think you did?” He asked, though Ray didn’t answer back…something else he had become known for in recent years. Michael’s cheerful face quickly dropped, having finally had it up to here with this. Four years now he had ignored how shut-in Ray had become, how secretive he attempted to be, how he would ignore his presence for as long as he possibly could for no apparent reason, as if he were just a shadow on the wall. Now they were going separate ways, and he wasn’t going to let them part without figuring this whole situation out.

“Listen Ray, ever since you came back after just up and disappearing in middle school, you’ve been blowing me off like this. What the hell happened to you?” Still no answer. Frustrated, Michael grabbed Ray by his shirt and pushed him up against a wall. “Say something for once, goddammit!”

Ray tried to push himself away from Michael’s grip, but the smaller boy was completely cornered. He looked directly at Michael’s eyes, coldly staring at him before finally speaking up. “You just don’t understand the need to grow up, do you Michael? Everything’s just a happy little game for you, not a care in the world. You never know when to man up and truly take things seriously, to be smart about things, to actually start using your head for once. I’ve changed, I’ve grown up, and I’ve gotten smarter, whereas you’re still hardly anything more than a big child,” he said, stomping down hard on Michael’s foot, causing the other boy to flinch long enough for him to finally shove him aside and continue walking off.

Michael hobbled around for a second to shake off the stinging pain in his stomped foot before looking off in the direction Ray had left, sullenly sighing at how his friend had distanced himself from not only his oldest friend, but from just about everyone it seemed. Nonetheless, he tried to forget about all that for the time being, as he still managed to walk home with an optimistic stride at the reminder that he was finally graduating high school, with college quickly appearing on the horizon. Finally, he was taking the next step in realizing his lifelong dream of exploring the life of the world, and he couldn’t have been more excited at this prospect.

Sliding through the front door of his family abode, Michael dropped his backpack beside the entrance and strolled into the kitchen, half-expecting his folks to give him their usual jovial greetings, until he spotted the note on the counter. The sight quickly reminded him that both of his parents had left for two weeks, his father on business, and his mother off visiting the family up north. He had promised them he could take care of the place while they were gone, and, for better or worse, they believed him, so now he had the entire place to himself. He wasn’t much of a partier, so he was likely going to spend these days lazing about, simply relishing the rare opportunity of being the house’s only occupant. However, as he made his way over to the living room and situated himself on the couch, that last confrontation with Ray started repeating itself over and over again in his head before he could even begin to relax.

“’Nothing more than a child’ he says…Well, what’s wrong with acting like that sometimes? I’m still only 18, what does it matter if I’m a little immature?” he asked himself, staring at the blank television screen in front of him, unable to press the power button on the remote sitting on the armrest next to him with all the thoughts suddenly buzzing around in his head, providing enough of a distraction in and of itself, albeit a far less entertaining one. Michael ended up staying dormant like this until nightfall, and he only moved to get up once he felt his eyelids getting heavy, staggering up to his feet and making the slow trek upstairs to his room. Yet, even as the fatigue from the previous day took its toll on him, as he sprawled himself out on his bed, staring at the ceiling fan spinning endlessly above him, he realized he wasn’t going to get much sleep tonight.

A brief journey to unconsciousness was quickly interrupted by the bright rays of sunlight that glimmered through Michael’s window shutters, aiming perfectly over his eyes. The boy groaned as he rolled off his mattress and tottered his way back downstairs, hardly more than half-awake by this point as he clumsily went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. He grabbed a plate and a cup from the cupboard and placed them on the counter as he rummaged through the fridge for something worth eating at this hour. He was hardly in the right mindset to make even this simple decision though, and he ended up grabbing a random assortment of dairy and meat products and tossing them in the direction of where he believed he had put the plate. He reached for a bottle of orange juice and proceeded to pour it into the cup, with most of the orange liquid making it into the container. Parched, he quickly went to down the beverage, not bothering to look down at the cup. If he had, he would have noticed that quite a bit of the meats and dairy he had intended to throw at his plate had made its way into the cup instead, creating quite an unpleasant concoction with the orange juice. The mere scent was enough to make Michael start gagging before the hodgepodge could even reach his mouth...but the reaction didn’t stop there…To Michael’s horror, his throat suddenly began to tighten, constricting his airflow, leaving him breathless. Within seconds, he was on his knees, reaching for the countertop as he struggled to get back to his feet, all the while gasping for the air he was oh so desperately needing with every passing second. His efforts proved to be in vain, and after one last weak push upwards, Michael collapsed onto the wooden floor, everything on the dusty surface blurring together as he slipped into darkness…

Convinced he was near death, Michael somewhat expected the visions that started flashing past his unconscious mind, but while he thought initially it was his life flashing before his eyes, he started noticing something peculiar about the images he was seeing…None of the moments looked familiar to him…A metallic table, a pile of wires, strange machines buzzing and beeping, all like something out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. Perhaps this was some demented coma fantasy instead of a flashback, but it hardly made any sense to him as to why he’d be seeing stuff like this before he left this world for good. It wasn’t like he had much time to comprehend it however, as the blackness came back to retrieve him without warning.

Seconds of silence…or perhaps it was hours…time was something that he couldn’t grasp in this state, and as far as he knew, eternities had passed while he floated around in a perpetual oblivion. He was forcing himself to accept this fate, one too late to manipulate any further...only to unexpectedly feel the cold, hard floor of his kitchen press onto the side of his head once more. As his feeling returned, his vision began to piece itself back together, colors melding as one, then separating and slowly reforming his surroundings into their rightful places. Last to return was his sense of smell, and once he got that back, he was not too happy to realize that the disgusting substance that had thrown him into this bizarre episode had spilled all over the floor and trickled right beneath his nostrils. On the bright side, the scent was enough to launch him right back up to his feet, a hand covering his mouth and nose as he nearly began retching some more, but managed to regain his composure without taking such actions.

“Oh my god…that was…terrible…” Michael grumbled with a shake of his head as he leaned back against the fridge, resting a hand over his eyes.

“I have to agree, sir…That mixture does not produce a very satisfying aroma…”

Michael removed his hand in surprise at the sound of his own voice emanating from somewhere other than his own mouth, anxiously looking around for this mimic while fretting he was just starting to hear things. Fortunately…or perhaps unfortunately, this proved to not be the case, as Michael’s eyes soon rested on another individual in the room, a young man in a black suit with a green shirt and tie, along with a black fedora and black sunglasses…covering a face that looked exactly like his own. He stared at this duplicate of his with his mouth agape, eyes widened, about to faint a second time, an expression that his double seemed to take notice of.

“You must have a lot of questions to ask, don’t you, sir? Allow me to clean this mess up before I start filling you in,” he said as he crouched down to pick up the cup from the floor. “I’d recommend sitting down for this by the way. I’m afraid what I have to explain will be rather…shocking to you…master.”
(To be continued... over here!)