“The Modified Man” Dark Science-Fiction by Joseph B. Cleary

Year 2062

Don Von Ryan was glad the lanky admissions clerk didn’t say what was in his eyes. He didn’t need anyone making him doubt his decision.   After being unemployed for almost ten years, he was going to enter the modified worker program. The good part was that it was not going to be as bad as it could have been.  Because he was a hero from the Great War, they were not going to lower his IQ, diminish his sex drive, and pump him full of steroids, like they did to most of the modified workers. Since he was a fit forty-two-year-old man, he figured that were just going to make a few minor adjustments to increase his stamina.  After that, he could go to work and his family would get a weekly check and health insurance for the rest of their lives. Since the change was going to be minor, and they said he would not be sent to any of the United American Confederation colonies, like England or Austria, he could visit his family.

The clerk took off his tortoise shell glasses and checked Von Ryan against the picture on his citizen identification card. He handed Von Ryan a pile of forms and said, “Make sure you fill out everything pertaining to the fact that we are not responsible for any extraordinary conditions that might occur and that you are fully cognizant of what this procedure entails. In the first few years of this program, we had modifieds and their relatives claiming after the fact that they did not know the procedure was irreversible.”

“Don’t worry, I know what I’m in for.”

“I hope you do,” the clerk said with a chuckle.

Von Ryan sat down and ran his fingers through his thick black hair as he stared at the stack of papers. He leafed through the forms, signing them as he went along.  His circumstances had made the decision for him. It had been hard enough to watch his family go hungry, but when his daughter, Dora, got cancer and the only way he could get his family health insurance was by submitting to the program, he knew what he had to do.  The program was the only way people who did not have insurance by birthright, political office, or have an extraordinary amount of money could get insurance.

He smiled when he got to the clause that entitled his spouse and his children to attend college all the way up to a master’s degree. That was unheard of for people in their station in life.  While that far from guaranteed them a job, as nepotism was the rule of the day, at least they would have a chance at one.  They would also be able to move out of their three-room apartment and into a government subsidized house.

A small man in a gray jumpsuit, who had the gait of a man in his thirties, but whose lined face made him appear to be in his seventies, came through the door, pushing a garbage barrel. He looked around, disoriented.  He had oversized ears and an enlarged nose. His eye sockets were cut wider so he had greater peripheral vision. He focused on a garbage can. There was a buzzing sound. The man stiffened for a second and then he hustled to a trash can. The admission clerk chuckled as he released the button on his desk.  Von Ryan was glad he had been in the position to negotiate a milder modification.

The clerk looked at Von Ryan and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that in front of you.”

“That’s okay. It has nothing to do with me.”

A smirk grew on the admissions clerk’s face.

“If you say so.”

Von Ryan narrowed his brown eyes and stared at the orderly. The orderly turned and walked away.

Von Ryan was led into the operation preparation room by a young, pretty, nurse and told to change into a white gown. He did, and then he followed the nurse to the operating room.

“You fasted overnight, right Mr. Von Ryan?”

“I did, even though I don’t think it was necessary.

“Standard procedure. You don’t want to get sick from the anesthesia.”

“I’m just getting a minor modification. I think they’re just going to give me a local.”

“Really? I didn’t think……I guess they still do that.”

“Do what?”

“To tell you the truth, I’m just here to prep you. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Von Ryan looked at all the instruments that were lined up on a tray next to the table and said, “Can I speak to someone who does know what’s going on?”

“Dr. Milton can answer any of your questions. I’ll see if I can get him.”

The nurse called Dr. Milton, the head of the modification program, over the intercom and explained the situation.  Dr. Milton asked the nurse to put him on the big screen. The craggy, middled aged face of Dr. Milton appeared on the screen above the operating table.

“Just calm down, Mr. Von Ryan, and let us do our jobs. It will be over before you know it. At this point you’re signed, sealed, and delivered, so just go with it.”

“I’m what?”

The screen went blank, and the nurse asked Von Ryan to get up on the table. He didn’t. The nurse pulled the overhead light down and started to arrange the doctor’s instruments.

“You know, Mr. Von Ryan, this is not our first rodeo.”

“Well, it is mine, and I’d like to at least know what event I’m in.”

“Good one. It’s a pity….”

“What’s a pity?”

“Nothing.”

A tall, tanned, athletic man in surgical whites marched into the room. The nurse gave him a concerned look. He sighed and shook his head.

“How are you, Mr. Von Ryan? I’m Dr. Harden. You ready for your big day?”

“As long as we’re on the same page.  I was told this was not going to be anything drastic, but everyone seems to think it is.”

“Depends which side of the scalpel you’re on, I guess.”

“What?” Von Ryan said as he squared his shoulders.

“Let me check my notes.”

The doctor swiped on his info pad and scrolled through it with a concerned look on his face. He pursed his lips, nodded, and said, “Hmmm, looks like you’re going for the full enchilada.”

Von Ryan backed away from the doctor.

“I’m not supposed to be going for the full anything. Screw it, I’m out of here.”

Von Ryan headed for the door.

“You agreed to be modified so you can join the government work force. I don’t understand why you’re upset.”

Dr. Harden got the nurse’s attention and motioned toward the door.  She went over to a desk in the corner. She pushed a button underneath it to lock the door, and another button to alert the staff. Dr. Harden stepped in front of Von Ryan, put his hand on his shoulder, and smiled.

“You should be proud of yourself, Mr. Von Ryan. Like a good number of our citizens, you are living in the solution, not the problem.”

Von Ryan knocked his hand off and said, “If you don’t let me out of here there will be a big problem.”

“Okay, alright. We did check into the minor modification operation and they’re not doing that right now. The state has no need for it.”

“But I was told I was eligible for that program.”

“You were told you were eligible for it.  No one said you would get it.”

“That’s why I signed up.”

The doctor narrowed his eyes, lowered his voice, and said, “You signed up because you were desperate, just like everyone else.”

“Forget it. I’m gone.”

“I’m afraid that’s no longer an option.  You signed a contract.”

“So sue me for all I got, which is nothing.”

Von Ryan marched toward the door. Before he got to it two orderlies and four security guards rushed into the room. Since there was no way around them, Von Ryan tried to go through them.

He knocked over the heaviest security guard and an orderly.  He headbutted another guard and then nailed one with a roundhouse. He was halfway to the door when the other orderly tripped him.  Over Dr. Harden’s protests, the guards surrounded him and started to beat him.

Von Ryan yanked a stun gun off a guard’s belt. He zapped two of them, got to his feet, and ran toward the door. He pulled on the handle. Locked.  As the men made their way toward him, he spied a scalpel on the table. He ran for it. Just as he grabbed it, a guard hit him with the butt of his gun in the back of his head.  Von Ryan staggered for a bit, then he steadied himself and backed into a corner.  He swung the scalpel so hard and fast that they could not get near him.

“How the fuck is he still standing?” An orderly said.

“He’s Captain Don Von Ryan. That’s how,” a security guard said.

“He was Captain Don Von Ryan. Now he’s a down on his luck, unemployed chump, who’s about to be modified.”

“It doesn’t appear that he agrees with that statement.”

Three guards rushed Von Ryan on his right side, enabling Dr. Harden to run up beside him and shove a needle filled with sodium pentothal into his left shoulder. As he turned his attention to Dr. Harden, the three guards zapped him with their stun guns. He fought for about ten more seconds, and then he shook and went down.

“Get him up on the table, quick,” the doctor said. “Let’s get this done before he can do anymore damage to himself or to us. It’s been a while since we had such great raw material to work with and I’m not going to screw it up.”

They strapped Von Ryan down and the rest of Milton’s team came into to the room. They went to their posts around the table. They were a crack team that had be working together for years.

Von Ryan should not have been able to break one of his straps, nor should he have been able to regain consciousness, but he did.  He sat up and ripped the tubes out of the oxygen and anesthesia tanks. As everyone hustled to replace the tubes, he grabbed a scalpel and cut his arm and legs loose. Von Ryan jumped off the table, staggered a bit, and then he ran for the door.  It was at this point that it became obvious that one of the guards needed more training. Before anyone could stop him, he took out his stun gun and tried to zap Von Ryan. The tanks blew.

While everybody was injured to some degree, from a barely noticeable foot injury to some fatalities, the only one they cared about was Von Ryan. They were not going to get another prime modification candidate anytime soon.

A team of specialists worked frantically trying to salvage Von Ryan.  His legs were burned so badly that they resembled chicken bones. They amputated them and mounted him on a mobile platform. He had a brain injury that lowered his IQ to just above the level of a cumquat, but that just saved them from lowering it themselves. It was never good to have a decent IQ after you were modified. His face was so injured they replaced it with metal, plastic, and rubber. They were able to save one eye.   His right arm was burned down to the bone. The other one was salvageable. They cut both off and replaced them with hydraulic arms. One had a hook on it, and the other was threaded so they could interchange tools on them.  They performed gastric by-pass surgery on him to cut down on his food intake, and then they castrated him to make him less aggressive.  They congratulated themselves for turning a bad situation into a positive one.

                                                                    2084

Jet Von Ryan looked at his graduation picture from eleven years ago. In it he was surrounded by his wife, Lilly, his mother, and his two younger sisters.  The only person missing, besides his two daughters, Michaela and Emma, who were too young to be there, was his dad, Don Von Ryan. The man he spent his life trying to emulate, the man he could never live up to. Without him, his success would not have been possible.   If his last name wasn’t Von Ryan, he would have never been able to afford to get married at the age of twenty-one or enroll in the Terrorist Extermination Academy. His Dad’s sacrifices for their country insured that his children had a nice place to live, an education, and a future. Jet sometimes felt guilty because the vast majority of his peers were not allowed to be educated past the eighth grade. If they were permitted to work, it would be at menial jobs with low pay.

Jet got into his government owned red and black cruiser. He checked himself in the mirror. The goatee and mustache he grew to give his blonde-haired blue-eyed face an edgy appearance seemed to be working.   He switched to hydro mode, and shot through the city’s canals, heading to his partner, Ed Rickenbraun’s, house.  As he jetted by the homemade tents that people lived in on the side of the canals, he shuddered.  He would hate to live the way these people did, surviving on government rationed food. But if they really wanted to work, they had the option of being modified.

Ed Rickenbraun was known as Wolf because of the way he howled when he took out a suspect.  That, and his abundant facial hair. Wolf would have done the job for free, as would have Jet, but each for different reasons. Jet looked at the United American Confederation as his second family. The more he did for them, the closer he got to living up to his father’s legacy.  Wolf just liked killing people.

Once Wolf got into the cruiser, he and Jet put their ID numbers into the dashboard computer. Jet hit the assignment button and their directions came up on the screen. They were to go to the Wharton mansion where they were supposed to arrest a young radical named Zoe McKay. Their level of force was black with a streak of silver, which meant they could do anything short of killing her. Wolf smiled, showing the two broken teeth on the left side of his mouth that he got when he was slammed with a pipe by a suspect’s brother.  The guy who hit him lived for five horrible minutes before his lights were permanently turned off.  Wolf’s insurance would pay for him to get his teeth fixed but he said they added pizzazz to his smile.

The Wharton mansion had been bought by Frank McKay from the Bank of The UAC after the original owner, Eric Wharton, lost his fortune gambling.  McKay had made his money selling bogus information to the enemies of the United States during the Great War, information that steered them in a direction that made it easy for US forces to take them out.   Besides being paid, McKay was rewarded with inside information on which foreign territories were going to be absorbed into the new U.A.C. when the war was over. He then bought the land for next to nothing and made a bundle when the U.A.C. declared it part of the new country.   The mansion was now owned by McKay’s niece, Zoe, who inherited it after he was killed by a relative of one of the men he set up.   Zoe blamed the U.A.C. government for his death and was living there with a cell of radicals over a huge depot of weapons. Jet and Wolf were supposed to bring her back to be interrogated, but the look on Wolf’s face told Jet that probably was not going to happen.  Fuck’em, Jet thought, if they wanted to live, they should not have been planning crimes against the state. If Jet could stop Wolf, he would, as Zoe probably had valuable information, but he was not going to try too hard.

When they got to the mansion, Jet used his body heat sensor to determine how many people were inside. There were eight, too many to take into custody, at least without extending more effort than they were worth. Three were in the living room, five were in the cellar.

Jet and Wolf hopped out of the cruiser and strode up to the house.   They nodded to each other, and then they blasted down the door. With his gun still set on high, Wolf took out the three people who were in the living room. Wolf’s eyes lit up.  He turned left and blew a hole in the door to the cellar. Before Jet could stop him, Wolf tossed a gel grenade through the hole. The screams of the people told them that the grenade was doing its job. Wolf smiled.  Jet was pissed that Wolf might have killed Zoe McKay.  Still, he held up two fingers indicating the number of people he thought were still alive. Wolf held up one. Whoever was wrong had to buy dinner.   Wolf enjoyed seeing the effects of a gel grenade on living subjects. Jet didn’t, but it didn’t bother him too much either. When people attacked the UAC, they attacked his family.

They crept down the stairs with their guns out. Three people were dead, two were writhing on the floor, screaming in pain.  Wolf pulled up a chair and sat down. He took out an artificial egg and bacon sandwich that was left over from breakfast and took a bite out of it.  Jet scanned the two that were still alive. Their DNA said one was a twelve-year old girl named Martha Drake and the other one was Zoe McKay

“We got to end this,” Jet said.

“Hey, it’s almost over. Just enjoy the show.”

“We’re supposed to bring the McKay girl in with us and the other girl is twelve.”

“We will, in a bucket.”

“We got a….”

“Do you really think she’s going to do anyone any good like that?”

“I don’t care. She can die as soon as we get there. I’m tired of getting shit from the brass because of your distorted ideas of a good time.”

Wolf sighed and said, “Fuck it. Okay, I’ll give her the injection. But you owe me.”

“Give them both….”

Wolf shot the twelve-year-old in the head. A chill went through Jet as he watched the girl go still.  Wolf injected Zoe McKay with a drug that regenerated ravaged skin, followed by a shot that healed damaged organs, veins, and arteries.   Wolf took a tube from his utility belt. He peeled it open and gave the twelve-year old an injection that made her body decompose rapidly, leaving just bones and dust.  Then he injected the three other corpses. Jet was grateful he didn’t do it while the girl was alive, like Wolf sometimes did.  Being dissolved alive was supposed to be one of the most painful things that could happened to a person. Wolf rolled Zoe over with his foot and handcuffed her.

“Let’s do a sweep of the house, make sure all the dregs are accounted for, and then get the clean-up crew out here,” Wolf said.

Ten minutes later they heard a series of high-pitched beeps outside the front door.  The clean-up crew had arrived.  Wolf and Jet opened the door and signaled them to come in. Three workers got out of the truck, opened the back doors, and pulled out a ramp. Some sort of machine wheeled itself down the ramp. It looked to be part flesh, part metal, and part plastic.  It had two hydraulic arms, the left one having a hook at the end, and wheels under its base.

“What the fuck is that?” Wolf said.

“A failed modification,” a stocky, blonde haired, crew member said. “The poor guy. I mean, none of them get a result they’re happy about, but this guy got a lifetime ride on the fucked forever train. I heard something happened during the operation and this is what they could salvage.  He can go in places too hot for us or too cold or too toxic, and it doesn’t bother him. At least we think it doesn’t. The guy’s got no mouth to speak of. Get it? To speak of.”

The modified man rolled ten feet past Jet, and then it turned and stared at him through his lone eye. Jet felt something, but he wasn’t sure what.  There was a scar on what was left of his neck that looked like a graze mark from a bullet. His father had one just like it.  When the modified man wheeled back around, Jet caught a glimpse of the image of a horseshoe burned onto what was left of his right shoulder blade.  He remembered his father had one burned into the same spot. Everyone in his squad during the Great War had one. They called themselves the Horsemen.

 The modified man wheeled away. Jet ran and cut in front of him. He stared into his one eye, trying to see something other than a freak. Jet was not sure if a tear appeared or if it was just some type of leakage out of the socket. He looked on the side of the machine and memorized the model and serial numbers. He repeated it three times as he was having trouble holding his train of thought.

Jet didn’t want to leave but staying there and staring at the poor soul was not going to prove anything. He had the numbers and so he could find out where and when the modified man originated.  He didn’t think it was his father, the president would not allow someone the country held in such high regard to be denigrated like that, but he had to know for sure.

That night he went to the modification department’s website and put in the serial number.  The year that number was issued was the last year he had seen his father.  Nothing came up when he put in the model number, which made sense. They wouldn’t have a model number for a one-of-a-kind screw up.

It occurred to him that there was a way he could easily prove that it was not his father. He had his father’s old eye activated tablet in storage.  If he put it up to the modified man’s eye and the tablet didn’t light up, then it wasn’t his father.

It wasn’t hard to break into the modified men depot. It was hard, however, for him to take in what he saw. There were rows of modified men, lying on metal slabs.  Some were plugged into an electric circuit and others had oxygen pumped into their open chests. A few had their artificial limbs taken off and were waiting for new ones.  One had his eyeballs removed for maintenance. The rest had vacant stares.

Jet found the modified man he had seen that day.  He was turned on his side and had a tube running into his back. His one eye was open.  His battery pack was charging next to his slab. He breathed in slow measures, aided by a pump.

Jet took his father’s tablet out of his backpack. He held it in front of the modified man’s eye, hoping the tablet would not switch on. There was a flash of blue light and the tablet lit up. Jet’s heart sped up. His mouth went dry.  The tablet shook in his hand. He stood there, looking at what used to be his father. He put his hand on his gun. He didn’t know if he wanted to shoot himself, his father, or everyone who worked in the place.  He started to leave. But then he turned around and pulled the plug on the breathing machine. He knew his father would not want to live like this.

Jet didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to go anywhere. He felt like the biggest chump in the world for supporting the UAC. He wondered how hard the president laughed to himself as he patted Jet on the back and told him how grateful he was to his family for all their sacrifices.  Jet walked around the city until he was too tired to walk anymore. Then he headed home and tried to go to sleep. He couldn’t. His stomach burned every time the president’s smiling face flashed in his mind.

Around four thirty in the morning he decided what he was going to do. While he couldn’t get near the president, a modified man could. They were the only workers allowed near him.    At least the ones that were low IQ, castrated, and docile were. The stronger ones were kept on a short leash in case of a malfunction. If he could get one that worked in the presidential mansion under control, he could end the president.

He used his security clearance to get into the government files, and then he entered a program that masked his identity. He got the model and serial numbers of the modifieds that worked in the palace, as well as the diagrams that showed their plans and specifications. He wanted the ones that were more machine than human so they wouldn’t think about what they were doing.

Next, Jet studied everything he could about the president and the presidential mansion. The president was known for being paranoid, which was understandable. He got his job by staging a coup against his boss, the previous president. A coup that Jet’s father was instrumental in winning.  All Jet needed to do was control the right modified man for a few minutes.

Two days later, a half hour before the president was to have breakfast, Jet stared at the screen of a stolen computer he had bought from a street hustler. His only regret was that he could not kill the president with his bare hands. He shook just thinking about the creep.

Jet checked his watch. He punched the keys on his computer.   A modified man carrying the president’s breakfast on a tray came up on the screen. The modified man put the tray down in front of the president and took a few steps back, waiting to see if he had to return the breakfast. The president nodded and the modified man turned to go.  Jet pushed two buttons and swirled his fingers around the screen.  The modified man turned back toward the president, snatched up a knife, and plunged it into the president’s neck.  The president grabbed his throat as his eyes bugged out. He fell to the ground. Jet made the modified man stab him four more times just to make sure he was done.

Jet swiped his palm over the screen.  The modified man dropped the knife, turned, and left. Jet typed another code into the computer that wiped everything off of it.  He then poured a solution into one of its ports that turned the computer into an expensive paperweight.

On his way home he worried about the pandemonium that was going to follow. He hoped that it would usher in a new era, but he doubted it. While he got great satisfaction out of killing the prick, the rest of the government was still in place.

When he got home his wife was sitting in their living room, staring at the information center, hoping to hear that there was a mistake, and the president was still alive. His daughters were sitting next to her, crying. They had loved the president and were grateful for everything he had done for them. They were also worried about their future. Jet had to watch the nation mourn a monster. He found solace in the fact that there could not be someone as horrible as the president waiting to take over.  The problem was that he was wrong.

The first order of business Vice President Stocker conducted when he took over the presidency shocked Jet. The second act devastated him.  Three days after President Stocker took office, Jet’s wife shook him awake.  He could hear soldiers shouting orders and trucks moving around outside his government owned condo. Jet thought a coup was in progress.  He dressed and grabbed his gun.

He looked out his window and saw soldiers going from door to door, rounding up the modified men.  They offered no explanation other than the new president ordered it. Some of the people had grown attached to their modified men, but most had grown attached to the work they did for them. They did not want to defy the government, but they wanted to know why their labor-saving devices were being loaded onto trucks and dismantled.

Jet checked his news feed. President Stocker had labeled the modified men menaces to society. What Stocker really meant was that they were a menace to him. There were some protests, but Stocker had inherited a presidency that had absolute power, and he wanted to keep it that way. A little-known clause in the modification contract gave Stocker the right to do what he wanted to do.  Section Z part X stated that if for some reason a modified man became a danger to society, the donor human agreed to be destroyed.  Since one of them had killed the president, they could no longer be trusted. While Jet felt bad that he had caused them to be destroyed, he reasoned that they were better off dead.

What happened next was a nightmare. Jet came home from work one day to see his neighbor, Mrs. Malcovich’s, twenty-year old, red headed son, Zeke, being led into a government car. Zeke had his head down and his gait was unsteady. Jet was shocked that the kid was being arrested.  He had always been a good kid. He knocked on his neighbor’s door to see if he could do anything. Zeke’s mother came to the door with tears running down her cheeks. Jet figured that Zeke must have done something seriously bad. Jet hoped he could help her.

In between sobs she smiled and said, “Isn’t this great?”

Jet paused and narrowed his eyes. With his hands at his side, palms out, he said, “How is your son being arrested great?”

“He’s not being arrested. He’s being modified.”

The picture of the poor modified souls flashed into Jet’s mind. He hoped he heard wrong. He hadn’t.

“But that’s worse than being arrested,” Jet said. His hand shook.

Mrs. Malcovich’s face tightened. She stared at Jet and then she said, “I’m surprised at you.  President Stocker says modification is the ultimate act of patriotism. I’m so proud of Zekey.”

Jet turned and walked into his house. He switched on his information center and shifted to the only non-partisan news channel.

The president had declared the lack of a modified work crew a national emergency and said that for the good of the country they would have to harvest new donors. Because of the urgent need for them it was no longer a voluntary program. It turned out there was a secret national registry of possible donors they had been observing since birth, and by the law of conscription they could modify them anytime and anyway they wanted.  They decided to use young people, the theory being that they would last longer. Women were also included on the donor list.  In order to make sure they could not rebel, a kill switch was installed in the new modifieds. It was impossible for them to harm a government official.

Some people were aghast, but others agreed with the president, believing it was the patriotic thing to do.  Everybody had to make sacrifices if they wanted to live in a free, productive society. The country could not thrive without the modified men.

Jet felt responsible for what was happening to the young people, mostly because it was his fault.   He bribed a clerk to obtain a flash drive with the names of modification candidates.   He scrolled through them until he got to two names.  His heart beat so fast that he thought if he looked down, he would see it coming out of his chest.  His throat constricted.   A sharp pain shot through in his stomach. He felt like he was going to pass out.  Both of his daughter’s names were on it. His youngest daughter, Ellie, had four years to go, but his oldest daughter, Becca, was slated to be modified within the next six months. There was an asterisk next to her name which meant she could be modified at any time, depending on the needs of the people. He could go home and find that she was gone.

He scrolled to the names that started with an R.  His mouth dropped open when he saw that Wolf’s kids were also on the donor list. Whoever put them on the list either did not know much about Wolf or was an idiot.  While Wolf was a patriot, being a father was the most important thing to him in the world. In fact, it was going to be hard to get him to calm down once he knew his children were in danger. Wolf was going to want to act right away, and without a plan he would likely fail.  The good thing was that once he got Wolf on his side, he would not only have the toughest extermination man fighting with him, some of Wolf’s former unit were sure to join them.

Jet placed his palm over the scanner on Wolf’s front door.   His wife, a retired actress and model, let him in. Wolf was downstairs in his gym, working out.

“What’s up? I didn’t think we were on today.”

“I have something to tell you that you’re not going to like.”

“They’re not going to serve lasagna in the cafeteria anymore?”

“You need to promise me you won’t go apeshit.”

Wolf picked up a dumbbell and did a few curls with his right arm. He chuckled and said, “When someone asks you to make that promise it’s usually about something that that will make you go apeshit.”

“Let me show you the files. It’s the only way you’ll believe what’s going on. You might not even believe it then.”

Jet steered him to the pages that showed the fate the government had planned for Wolf’s daughter and son. Wolf reread it three times. His breath quickened. His face turned red and his hand shook.

“What the fuck does this mean? This can’t be right.”

“It means our kids are going to be conscripted into the modification replenishment program and we’re supposed to be glad about it.”

“Come on.  They’re not going to mess with our kids. Not after all we did for the country.”

“They turned my father into a freak.”

“Get out of here. The whole country loved your father.”

“That doesn’t mean shit to them.  I’d show you a picture, but you wouldn’t recognize him.  They took my neighbor’s son this morning.”

Wolf clinched his fists and kicked over his workout bench.   “We’re going to fucking stop this, and we’re going to stop this now.  The only question is how bad are we are going to make Stocker suffer.”

Jet and Wolf decided to do enough damage so it would be impossible to rebuild the program.  Jet figured that no one who condoned turning teenagers into freaks needed to be alive.  While they could go down in history as traitors, their kids would be safe.

Wolf summoned his toughest crew members, the ones who put thrills ahead of consequences.  He showed them the contents of the flash drive and explained what it meant. He sent four to the medical building. Their instructions were to kill as many of the staff as possible, and then destroy the building.  A fifth crew member was sent to blow up the congressional building.  The last two went with Jet and Wolf.   

Jet shifted his cruiser to land mode, turned the siren on, and sped through the streets and alleys. He slammed his brakes on in front of the president’s mansion.   Jet and Wolf jumped out of the cruiser, holding their badges in the air, yelling that there was a defective modified man on the loose.  The guards looked at each other, and then they pulled out their phones. Before they could say a word, the back windows of the cruiser went down. Mark Winston and Eddie Thresh opened fire on the guards. The guards fell and Jet and Wolf dragged them out of the way.  Jet scanned the doors with one of the guard’s ID. They flew open. The four of them ran into the mansion. They had to get to the president before someone figured out that something was wrong.  Since Jet had studied the layout and the president’s habits, they headed for the dining room.

They shot the two guards outside the president’s dining room door.  Then they kicked the door in.  The president looked up from his artificial lobster dinner, right into their scowling faces.  When they aimed their guns, he held his hand up in front of his face, as though it would stop the blast. It didn’t.  The bite he had taken out of his dinner was his last bite. His wife made a run for the door. Wolf killed her. She knew what was going on and didn’t care.

Wolf took a ring off the president’s finger and tossed it to Jet.  They headed for the president’s office and pried opened the bottom drawer of his desk where a computer was mounted.  Jet shoved the ring’s stone into a port below the screen.  The computer powered on. Jet switched to the channel that monitored the government buildings.  The medical center was on fire.  The congressional building was gone.  Now they had to make sure the modifications could never continue.

Jet had put in a code that would send a virus through the country’s computer system and destroy its medical programs. The problem was that it might also ruin programs that the country needed to maintain itself.  Jet decided it was worth it.  He had punched all but four numbers into the tablet when its screen started to fade. The laptop was rigged so it would implode when the president’s heartbeat stopped.  After that all the top government officials would be notified of his death and a citywide siren would sound.   The screen was blank before Jet could punch in the final two numbers.

They heard some guards rushing down the hall.  They slid out the door and ran, pretending they were canvasing the building. None of them thought they were going to live another day, but quitting was not something they did.

The stairwells were sealed off and the elevators were deactivated. It was just matter of time before the guards realized they did not belong there.  Wolf kicked in an office door, ran to the balcony, and smashed the glass door.  Since they were on the second floor it should have been an easy jump. They problem was there was a mob below that was waiting to tear apart the president’s assassins. They didn’t know which to take their chances on, the mob or the guards.

The guards rushing into the office made up their minds. The three of them went over the balcony while Wolf opened fire on the guards. As the guards fell to the floor, Wolf turned toward the balcony. Just as he put his foot on the balcony’s ledge, a wounded guard raised his gun and shot him.  Wolf slumped over the balcony, dead. The mob was too intent on getting into the mansion to notice the other three as they hit the ground. Jet looked around for Wolf. His stomach churned as he looked up at his fallen partner.

Once they smashed in the door, the mob trampled the guards and tore apart everything that could be torn apart. The alarm signaling the death of the president also signaled to the citizens that it was time to end the government that kept them living in poverty, that turned them into freaks.   They had tolerated a lot in the name of patriotism, but when the government started mutilating young people, it had to go.  They were not going to stop until the last trace of the regime was gone.

The three of them jumped into Jet’s cruiser. Jet put it on speed surge.  As it shot down the road, Jet turned on the news.  The soldiers guarding the president’s mansion had joined the mob in trashing it. The camera man went to another shot in time to show a bullet entering the vice president’s head.

Jet slowed down. He sat back and exhaled. No matter what happened to him, no matter what people said about him, he finally felt like he was father’s son.


Joseph B. Cleary grew up in Westfield, NJ and now lives in the Scotch Plains NJ. He has a degree in Business Administration with a minor in English. He is employed as a substitute teacher in Scotch Plains and works as a utility man for CBS and Fox sports.  He is currently writing short stories while he tries to sell his first novel. He enjoys spending time at his shore house with his significant other and his dog Dilly and going to concerts. His work has been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including, Talking River Review, Children Churches and Daddies, The Prison Compendium, as well as other ones. 


3 thoughts on ““The Modified Man” Dark Science-Fiction by Joseph B. Cleary


  1. Absolutely Fantastic! What a great idea, which could possibly be interpreted as a metaphor exaggerating our society as a whole, but which you cleverly placed in the future, this really emphasized the point. An extremely well done, amazing job.

  2. Pingback: The Chamber Magazine

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