Professor Manhattan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A lab accident turns a certain Dr. Joseph W. Kennedy into an explosive, volatile titan.

Submitted: September 12, 2018

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Submitted: September 12, 2018

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Somewhere north of Santa Fe, New Mexico; sometime during the early phases of the Manhattan Project; thousands of scientists shuffled all around the Los Alamos National Laboratory. All around it is the vast emptiness of the desert; dry cracked sand, and prickly artichoke cacti.

A low, constant whir filled the whitewashed room. It was large enough to fit at most a thousand scientists standing side by side with a bit of elbow space, and was only one of the rooms in the Chemistry and Metallurgy section. Keyboards clacking noisily, soft murmurs, and the occasional beep of monitors. Desks and consoles littered the room, and sprawled up on the starboard wall was a massive whiteboard being attacked by deft fingers; writing and erasing, writing and erasing. One of the very many chemists present was a certain Joseph W. Kennedy, one of the co-founders of a certain element called plutonium. At 26, Kennedy is the Chemistry and Metallurgy Division Leader of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The young chemist was discussing notes on incoherent gibberish about isotopes and atomic compositions with another of plutonium’s founders, Arthur C. Wahl. They’re comparing their own notes about the element called plutonium.

All about people were chattering endlessly:

“If we just boil Pu to 3228°C, or 5842°F…”

“Doesn't it melt at a temperature of 639.4°C, or 1182.9°F?”

It only becomes ductile when alloyed. I know; I'm smarter than you.”

conduct electricity that well, though.”

“Don't open the petri dish. That little smear of plutonium is highly toxic, and very reactive.”

“It's warm to the touch.”

Behind the chemist Kennedy, right in the midst of the room, is a massive, metal contraption. Lasers probed at a spinning petri dish in the center of said contraption. In said petri dish is a gram of plutonium, perfectly placed so that every blast of light hits it with amazing accuracy.

“Time for lunch!” a disgruntled voice shouted from outside the room.

Grunting, Kennedy pushed himself out of his rickety, dilapidating desk and swaggered out of the room. Others followed him out, shoving and pushing. All but one. The last one, Arthur Wahl. After ensuring that he was alone, Arthur locked the metal door and hermetically sealed the room. Then, he broke open a locked glass cabinet and pulled out several vials of silvery gray powder and a cylinder of gas. He unstoppered the tank, and let the cool vapor rush out. The man then walked to the center of the room. After messing with several buttons, keys, and levers of a jet-black console, he pulled out the petri dish. Arthur pried off the dish cap, and dumped every single grain of the powder into the dish.

 

“Kennedy!” yelled a man from the clean, whitewashed cafeteria. Three of its four walls were completely made out of a thick glass, while the remaining one connected to the kitchen (the remaining wall was closed off to the general public by a counter where the lunch people serve food). The rest of the room was filled with long kitchen tables.

“Seaborg?” replied the surprised man, who lifted himself off his heavy metallic chair. “Last I saw you, you were complaining about the uranium that you’ve having been trouble converting.”

The man known as Seaborg walked towards Kennedy and his table mates and gave him a great, big bear hug. “Ah, the University of Chicago. Kill me before I go back there again. By the way, you’ve any luck on that ghastly plutonium?”

“No,” replied Kennedy. Then he ushered the man to an empty seat adjacent to his. “Long days and even longer nights, spinning pepper around and around in a glass circle.” He picked up a pepper shaker and sprinkled it over his crab soup.

“Easy, Joseph. Those little grains of pepper can kill you in a heartbeat.” Glenn T. Seaborg was a large, burly man at 31. He is credited as the co-founder of iodine-131, an isotope of iodine used to treat thyroid disease, as well as plutonium.

“Anyway, you still engaged to that secretary Ayva?” asked Kennedy, sipping some of his soup.

“It’s Helen, and we’re married.”

“Congrats. Well, aside from that, you done anything worth noting recently?”

“Well, aside from that, I successfully turned that uranium I’ve ‘been having trouble converting’ into plutonium… And I figured out its atomic mass. How about that?” bragged Seaborg.

Kennedy cleared his throat and stood up, feeling dejected. “I did something as well…” He walked towards the cafeteria door, stopped and waved at Seaborg (signaling him to follow), then continued walking.

 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint), Arthur Wahl was able to exit the room before anyone could see him in there. He slammed the metal door closed, maybe to prevent too much of the gas from leaving the room, causing a loud thud. Wahl sneaked out, spying the empty corridors with a wary eye. Such a wary eye he has, that he did not notice Joseph Kennedy and another person walking by him until they were almost face to face.

“Glenn!” cried Arthur Wahl when he noticed the familiar face of Glenn Seaborg grinning at him.

“Arthur.” Seaborg replied coolly.

After exchanging a few words of conversation, the three continued on their paths; Kennedy and Seaborg to the Chemistry and Metallurgy laboratory, and Arthur to who-knows-where. Walking through that empty hallway while everyone was on their lunch-break, the two could hear the resonating thumps of their footsteps rising and falling, and the loud creak of the steel-and-lead entryway. They entered the room and shut the door.

It felt eerily cold. The massive contraption in the center was shut off, and a light on the console was red and blinking, waiting for the tiny, transparent circle to be returned to it. A large, glass cabinet backed against one wall lay shattered and broken, and vials of chemicals lay scattered on the floor.

Even more vials were sprawled on Arthur Wahl’s assigned desk, one upraised slab of wood huddled against many more. The two, bewildered, picked up some of the vials, unmarked because their labels were ripped off.

Just then, vents in the ceiling opened up. Buzzing. Lots of it. Sucking in the used-up air and replacing it with new ones. Then the smell of burning. A horrid burning. Somewhere near the door, an oak-wood desk caught fire. Under it was the petri dish, completely filled with a burning, gray, powdery substance.

Seaborg’s eyes grew to the size of CDs. “What the—"

Boom!

 

Three hours later, we hear the sounds of sirens. Police mobiles, fire engines, and ambulances all circled the area. The Chemistry and Metallurgy section of the laboratory was completely sealed and shut off. Shaken employees were being dragged off the premises. One of them Arthur Wahl, shaking and stuttering.

A police officer interrogated the shaky chemist. “Dr. Wahl, I’m Officer Rutter, and I want you to tell me where you were during the explosion and what you were doing there.”

“I… I… enntering… k… k… cuhfetrrria… passsedd Guh-Glllennn annd Johhh-Johhh-Johhsepph…” stuttered Arthur faintly. Then his knees buckled and he fell to the floor.

In the distance, you could hear the distant chopping of helicopter blades, a low, faint, constant almost drowned out by the blaring of sirens.

Whupa-whupa-whupa-whupa-whupa.

The shiny, navy-blue helicopter dropped down not thirty feet from Officer Rutter and his team. Dust sprayed and clothes flapped impetuously, and the whupa-whupa of those humongous katanas blindly slashed at the desert sky. Down came a dignified man in the most stylish of ensembles, wearing a jet-black tux being mercilessly weathered by the smog-like sand and grime. His slick, black hair flapped from the downdraft wind.

The man whipped out a small, leather wallet-like item that encased his ID from his back pocket.

“Special Agent Adair, coming from D.C.; Washington needs Dr. Wahl.”

Officer Rutter patted Arthur Wahl on the back, a tad bit forceful, “Well, time for you to go, Doc.

Hesitantly, Wahl shuffled to the idle flight machine, lab-coat swooshing like a superhero cape, although awkwardly.

 

An hour after the helicopter successfully propelled itself off the desert and away, Officer Rutter requested for a gas mask from one of the less shaken-up medics. It was large and clunky, an ugly, dark moss helm with huge, glass circles for the eyes. Attached to the end of it for the breathing hole was a shower head-like breathing apparatus. The mask was supposed to protect the user from inhaling toxic gases.

The officer moved gingerly through the barricade of police mobiles, the ambulances and fire engines having long gone. He walked undisturbed, solemnly, inside the now-empty building. The constable traversed the long, winding corridors until he stood in front of the Chemistry & Metallurgy laboratory. The constable forced open the metal door, heaving with renowned strength.

After, the door burst open with a thunderous crash, and a torrent of fire lashed out at the unsuspecting man, but reeled back and withdrew, preferring the simple ease of burning wood. The room was a complete mess. Most of it was blackened with soot, and chunks of wood, sheets of paper, and broken metal all lay burning throughout. The sprinkler system was turned on but spewed out only small leaks. The ceiling was covered with white steam and black smoke, both from the searing heat and fire in the room. Rutter’s badge of silver gleamed orange gold in the fiery light.

Lay huddled in the far corner of the mess was an enormous mass of shiny, gray mineral. The officer inched closer, and noticed the slight shape of a man cast in the splatter of silvery gray. Some bits and pieces of threaded white stuck out like an awfully plucked chicken.

Then something behind the constable groaned. It was not a regular, human groan. But instead a throaty, deep growl that made him shudder. He drew out his handgun and moved closer. Near the door, another huddling mass of gray, inversely complemented by tufts of white.

Out of the corner of his eye, Rutter saw the mass of gray by the door move. First small twitches. Then short bursts of spasm. If it was beckoning Rutter closer, then its plan worked. The confused officer stepped over burning rubble and neared the shimmering heap. Hesitantly, he touched the pile with gloved fingers. Quick as a flash, the metal burst to flame. It seared his hands through the leather and charred the skin.

“Argh!” Office Rutter jerked back his arm. Clouds of smoke clouded his vision, so he ripped the moss-colored mask off and tossed it away. Suddenly, the smell of burning went through his nostrils. Not the smell of smoke; but an awful, horrid one of radiation and death.

“Who…” a deep rasp faintly whispered, seeming to come from the huddling coat of metal.

The constable was at a loss of words, and backstepped thrice.

“Wha…”

“Who… Are… You…?” the heap rasped once more.

?”  The officer uttered, sidestepping to the door, his handgun drawn and loaded.

“Who… Am… I…?”

“Yes,” the constable replied idly.

The half-melted, burning pile of silvery gray just shuddered.

“Might be you either the man Seaborg or Kennedy. Might be I hallucinate this entire thing. I don’t know.” Officer Rutter shrugged indignantly. The right part of the pile stretched outward, and the constable shot at what seemed to be the faint outline of a head.

The bullet soared through the room, gleaming with gold then grayish then bright orange. The great, small objectification of Death wooshed towards the shimmering pile like an eagle to its prey. A high, shrill ping resonated throughout the room as the empty shell of the bullet hit the ground. Then Death hit its target with pinpoint accuracy.

 

The explosion sent a shockwave that broke every fragile material, sent everyone sprawling to the ground, and unleashed a stampede of pure dust. The whole laboratory exploded, and every single shard of material not evaporated by the initial impact of the fiery mushroom cloud came at the surrounding group of the people and vehicles left behind as violent torrents of varied knives rushing at deadly speeds, killing anyone in their way.

Most people had ducked behind their automobiles and missed the ensuing chaos that flew at them, but were not prepared for the aftermath. When the knives hit the automobiles with wicked thuds, they caused gas leaks or chamber failures, or both. Boom! Boom! Boom! Vehicles burst in great clouds of flame. Pure black smoke billowed out to the setting sky. The scattered remains of the Los Alamos National Laboratory was as clear as the moon in the night.

 

The next day, Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves reached the remains of the Laboratory. He was at Washington D.C. with Donald Nelson at the War Production Board, but traveled to New Mexico as soon as he received word.

“What happened here?” Brigadier General Groves barked impatiently.

He ran to the former Laboratory, despite the warnings of his armed soldiers, not caring. He ran despite the known presence of radiation in the area. He ran despite knowing the futility of his approach.

Brig Gen Groves searched all around the blackened rubble, throwing them around and around. Then he saw it. A small, pathetic flicker of light at the far end of the remains. He sprinted to it. The flickering light grew to a still-burning fire. Groves ran as close to the source as possible, panting and groaning by the time he reached it. What caused the fire was something unnatural. It was a massive heap of shimmering gray metal wrapped in a burnt and blackened coat that had the faint outline of a huddled human, albeit much larger. And Groves knew not to touch it.

But then it shivered. Groves drew his gun and rested his finger by the trigger. The heap shuddered and grew, its human features growing more distinct. But the gray thing enlarged to almost twice his height. By the time fifteen of the Brigadier General's camouflaged companions reached him, the thing was eyeing Groves warily, its fire lashing out with relentless fury.

One of the soldiers gasped.

“Joseph,” Groves said, reading a half-burnt nametag. “What happened?”

“Therre iss nno Jjoseph,” the thing rasped in its deep, ugly voice. “Tekk me to Arrthur Waahll.”

“Alright, Professor Manhattan,” someone snickered. And those were his last words. For the big, gray thing, one moment staring at the Brigadier General, the next crashed into the man, propelled by its own explosion. But it was a small one. Not enough to do much harm, but enough to make everyone stagger back at least four steps.

The man lay by the thing he dubbed, ‘Professor Manhattan.’ Every one of Groves’ soldiers gaped at the silvery gray burning monster; confused, afraid, dumbfounded. The explosion caused a thin crater there, but wisps of floating gray material slowly leeched at it. It was also changing its shade of monochromatic gray. From Marengo to Cadet to Charcoal to Gainsboro to some in between. All the while constantly plagued by endless fire.

Finally, the last of the Brig Gen's companions reached him. A stout man of medium height. His right shoulder was the familiar sigil of a large A hovering over a smaller castle. The man carried a massive, leather pack by his left hand. By his right, a type of castleton-green gas mask; both of which he dropped as he noticed the enormous, silvery man staring right at him with soulless eyes.

“What the…” The man gasped with large, owl-like eyes.

Then they heard a sudden rumbling behind them. Rubble shifted, parted to make way for another monster like Kennedy. Now there were two. A second mass of silvery gray metal that had engulfed and destroyed Joseph Kennedy of C & M.

“General Groves,” croaked the fatigued newcomer. It staggered nearer and nearer Groves, while he himself stepped back farther and farther.

The Brigadier General eyed the second metal man. It also had the blackened lab coat that ‘Professor Manhattan’ wore, and torn up and burning as well. Stitched to the upper left of its chest was a nametag, and on it an inscription that held the faint outline of ‘Seaborg.’

Groves shook his head and sighed. “Chicago, Glenn. You weren't supposed to be here.”

“I know,” Seaborg replied with more than a little hint of sadness.

The impatient Kennedy interrupted; “I Will nott askkk ahgenn. Give me Waahll!”

“Don't worry, Kennedy. Arthur Wahl is safe at Virginia. Now, if you both would just follow me, we might find a way to get you back to normal,” Groves said, rather calmly.

But the thing that had formerly been Kennedy would not have it. With a single, quick step, Kennedy rammed into the Brigadier General, making him fly and skid back like a skipping stone over water.

Immediately, Seaborg retaliated, and a heart racing battle ensued. All the dazed soldiers could do was watch; friend and foe raged throughout the desert, upturning dust and clouding up everything. Here and there explosions sent shockwaves that caused most of the camouflaged men to stagger and at least one or two to fall.

“Everyone! Ready your weapons! We have to be ready to meet Professor Manhattan face on,” one of them shouted.

Everytime the two behemoths clashed, clouds of dust, wisps of floating gray material, and blasts of fire burst everywhere. Each man drew their gun and waited. Waited for the climax of the battle. Whether to greet Seaborg with a warm welcome or Kennedy with a rain of bullets.

But everyone knew that their loaded weapons were futile. With a yield of about 74920 kilotons of TNT, Kennedy could more than engulf the island of Hawaii in thermal radiation and leave a crater almost half a mile deep. And even if, with some miraculous aid, that they survive the full wrath of Professor Manhattan, they'd still have to live with radiation from alpha particles emitted by the plutonium men in their bodies. It also doesn't help that every single one of them have already breathed their fair share of the toxic element, and that doesn't help their situation. Not a single bit.

The battle lasted for what seemed to be hours. It was already sundown when the dust finally settled and everyone could see again. One of the soldiers spotted Brigadier General Groves a couple of yards away, rifle drawn. They ran to him with cheerful faces, glad that they had survived the ordeal. One by one, they lined up and saluted their commanding officer.

“Troy,

“Evans,

“Smith,

“Denny,

“Becker,

“Coleman,

“Martin,

“Cho,

“Piper,

“Snow,

“Devor,

“Useman,

“Steele,

“DeLaRosa,

“Reporting for duty, sir!”

After the ceremonial lineup, the stout man with the gas mask finally reached the group.

“Glover, reporting for duty,” he said, in between huffs and puffs of exhaustion.

They all chided themselves for a moment, before hearing a constant, raspy breath behind them.

“Kennedy iss no longgerrr a thrreatth.” rasped the massive figure of silvery gray.

“We're taking you to see the president, Seaborg. I'm sure he'll want to know what went down,” Brig Gen Groves said.

A while later, several military vehicles traversed the darkening expanse of the desert, leaving long trails of dust behind them. They were headed for the Holloman Air Force base. Left behind was Glenn Seaborg, who had to resort to walking, as none of the vehicles could support his overall weight of over 7850 lbs. At least, Groves thought he was walking. In reality, he flew. More like jumping in the sky, really. Seaborg propelled himself upward with his explosions; gravity directs himself downward, and discharges of extreme energy direct him upward.

 

“That was some quick walking,” the Brigadier General jested. They were now in the Holloman Air Force Base, ten miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico. They were to travel to the Langley Air Force Base, slightly more than 100 miles south of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the official address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A couple of hours later, their carriages were readied. Fresh from the hangar were two Boeing-247s, decorated in camouflage green. The half-mad Brigadier General gave Seaborg a Boeing all to himself, with all the unnecessary parts taken off.

won't even be able to leave the runway, much less be carried all the way to D.C. It is too heavy, even without the added weight of fuel. And if Dr. Glover's calculations are indeed correct, you've just killed every man at this station. Stop this nonsense now, and I'll personally oversee its dematerialization,” pleaded the commander of the hangar, although futilely.

Groves had every single crevice and hole in the passenger sealed with the new-issue polyethylene duct tapes embroidered with a camouflage pattern. Then he had Seaborg hosed down with sodium carbonate to extinguish his flames and sent him inside the compartment, before sealing that entryway too. For overkill effect, the Boeing where Glenn was housed was filled with nitrogen, to stop his pyrophoric self from burning the aircraft down. Although Seaborg's chauffeur initially disagreed to drive him, he finally consented after being threatened for his insubordination.

Then the Brigadier General himself and a few choice men entered the other Boeing, and both traveled through the asphalt runway. The carrier that held Seaborg sputtered and shuddered, due to the extreme and unbearable weight of its load, but fluttered on nonetheless.

 

Four days later, in the Langley Air Force Base. President Roosevelt, in a jet-black ensemble complete with a crimson tie and Aviator sunglasses, and two others from the Cabinet awaited this so-called silvery gray monster at the side of the runway. In the far distance you could see two small camouflage birds decreasing in altitude. One was smooth and unwavering; the other was shaky and meandering.

Finally, the one ahead ran down the runway, landing gear extended out, and slowed. They stopped not twenty feet from where the president stood. Then one of the Boeings opened up. Several soldiers rushed out.

The second, shaky one finally landed as well. The soldiers sprinted to it and started ripping off the camouflage covering. Upon closer inspection, the President saw that it was actually tape. The same kind that the factory worker (Vesta Stoudt was it?) sent to both him and the War Production Board. In the one that sputtered large bouts of flame at a time was a silvery gray behemoth. It wore an extremely tattered lab coat blackened with soot. The monster feverishly clutched something in a shivering hand. The entryway opened and light poured inside, revealing the President of the United States, the Secretary of War, and the Vice President. A slight glint of a smile seemingly formed in its face. Then it opened it hand to reveal a severed piece of blackened cloth embroidered with the faint outline of…

'Kennedy.'


© Copyright 2018 Eliazar. All rights reserved.

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