The Man in the White CoatCategories Science Fiction
Martin wore his newest and whitest labcoat for the workplace tour, even though his son wouldn’t care. At eight years old, Nolan saw his dad as a boring blank canvas on which someone ought to draw a dinosaur. It took plenty to impress an imaginative boy, but beholding the deadliest creature that ever existed might just work.
They stood hushed in the steel-walled room as the huge roller door slowly opened. Nolan squinted as the panels hummed along horizontally, quite unlike the garage door at home. He stared harder at the glass wall behind it which started to show.
“Bullet, fire, and explosion proof glass,” Martin said, hoping to spur a few questions. He didn’t want his son to stay too hushed and humbled. “And if someone sneezes too hard in here, the alarms will reach the vice president.”
It worked. With boys, brute honesty always did.
“Did you work on the warlord’s arm muscles?” Nolan asked.
“No,” Martin said, “just tiny wee cells of something insanely bigger.”
“Can he really kill everything if he wanted?”
“No, only if we wanted.”
The rightmost meter of glass only revealed a cross section of mud, a crown of green turf, and some million-dollar lamps in the ceiling. The roller door opened slowly. Sixteen endocrinologists agreed, on full-time payroll, that nothing should startle the warlord.
“We’ve enjoyed world peace for the longest time ever,” Martin said as he too scanned for the warlord’s shadow. “Earth has become that much more sacred. If any nation starts a nuclear war, the warlord can stop it soon enough. He would take many lives, but at least the environment would survive.”
“But what if the warlord wants out?” Nolan asked.
“He likes the Pen of Madness we made for him. Releasing him would wipe out entire continents without causing infrastructural damage. The nuclear cannons aimed at the sky need living people to fire them.”
The warlord finally leaped into view, for he had the same curiosity about what lied behind the glass as the few children allowed to look in. He posed and froze as he did for all the workers’ kids who got to stand here once in their lifetimes.
The warlord’s huge red eye stared for eternity, and the grass flattened under his mighty feet.
Martin and Nolan beheld the small, white-furred rabbit.
The roller door finished its journey. Nolan kept searching for life, then for an enormous secret entrance in the pen’s three titanium walls. He only saw coin-sized flaps for food dispensing and tendril vacuums for waste removal.
“Does he hunt rabbits with invisibility mode?” Nolan asked.
“No,” Martin replied. He gazed, awestruck by the apparent innocence on both sides of the four-inch glass. “The rabbit hunts everything with invisible weapons.”
Nolan’s mouth went mostly to one side.
“Only a few kids ever get this close to the Pen of Madness,” Martin said.
Nolan still looked glum, and his eyes became even driftier.
“Don’t let that clean, white coat of fur fool you, Nolan. The warlord has thousands of airborne pathogens and immunity to all of them. We can distribute the vaccine to every person, pet, and farm animal we choose.”
“So…the bad guys will all catch the flu?” Nolan asked while the warlord nibbled on some pellets.
“Yes. Every flu. Every everything. They would die from pustules, diarrhea, fever, and 512 forms of delirium. But the real madness comes from the pregnant women. For every animal species we tested, the fetuses claw their way outside the body only to die of something worse.”
Martin finally glanced down at his son. Nolan looked just as naive now as he did four stories up on the ground level.
“The institute has our house, car, and clothes legally bugged,” Martin said. “They wouldn’t let me say much before today. Did you expect something different?”
“Yeah,” Nolan said. “I kind of hoped for a flying soldier with a gun that shoots crystal cyanide.”
Martin smirked. He gazed again at the warlord and chuckled. “What kind of savages do you take us for?”
Nicholas Stillman (stillmanscifi.com) writes science fiction with medical themes. His work has appeared in Total Quality Reading, The Colored Lens, Helios Quarterly Magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Not One of Us, Silver Blade Magazine, and the Wavelengths anthology.