“What’s the situation?” Maverick growled.
“It’s bad, Maverick,” the commissioner said. “Real bad. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
“Stop shakin’ and start talkin’. Couldn’t make head or tail out of what dispatch was saying. Kept blithering on about some mutant baby.”
“That’s exactly it Maverick,” the chief said. “We’re not sure how or why, but…see for yourself.”
The chief handed Maverick the binoculars and Maverick looked down from the top of the parking garage to the windows of the hospital below. At first he didn’t see anything, but then there was a flicker of movement and something skittered by one of the windows.”
“It’s the thing,” the chief explained. “The baby.”
“How does it move like that?”
“It has…tentacles or something. Henderson was the only one survived the raid. He kept raving about…fronds. I didn’t know what to make of that.”
“Is everyone out?”
The chief nodded. “We evacuated them as soon as we could. But some…didn’t make it.”
“She died trying to protect the thing from Henderson and the boys. Someone shot her.”
“Only a mother,” growled Maverick.
“We need your help, Maverick. I know you’re retired, but after that business down in Nicaragua…”
“Radioactive flying chimps ain’t exactly the same thing as a mutant baby. Besides, I’m no good with kids.” Maverick put the binoculars back up to his eyes. “Any intel on what that thing can do?”
“Some of the nurses said they saw it tear the doctors apart before it was even fully out of the womb,” the chief said. “If you can believe that.”
“At this point I can believe almost anything,” Maverick said.
“Can you help us?” the chief said. “Just this one last time? I’ve already lost five of my best men to that thing.”
“Right. But you’re perfectly fine with me sticking my neck out.”
“You’re my last hope. If you can’t do it, we’ll have to turn the whole place into rubble.”
“And that wouldn’t look good for your reelection campaign now would it?”
“Please Maverick. I know we haven’t been on the best of terms in the past, but-”
“Oh, can it. I’ll take the job, if only to stop listening to you whine. But first I’m gonna need some things.”
He started to make out his list.
Almost an hour later, Maverick strolled into the hospital through the front door. He put his hand down on the handle of his 44. magnum and traced the cool steel contours of the gun with his fingertips as if he were caressing a lover.
The elevators were still running, but Maverick took the stairs instead. He stopped somewhere around the third landing he felt a pain in his side, and he thought, You’re getting too old for this stuff, Maverick. Too bad you’re no good at anything else.
On the fourth floor landing he put his hand in his pocket to assure himself that the thing the whole plan hinged on was still there. The gun at his hip was just for show, a talisman of war that had carried him through the good times and the bad. But it would do him no good here. Shooting the thing wouldn’t work. Henderson and his men had tried that, and the baby had been too fast for them to see, let alone hit.
But the thing in his pocket…it would work. If only…
Maverick pushed open the door and stepped into the stark hospital hallway. He stepped over a dismembered arm and skirted past a spatter of blood on the wall.
“Come out, come out wherever you are,” Maverick called as he stepped slowly down the hall. At first there was nothing, but then he heard an unearthly scuttling noise from his right and he turned and saw the baby-thing was watching him.
It looked vaguely like a human baby, but its skin was green with splotches of black, and the back of it’s head was open somehow, moving and squeezing with folds like an accordion. But the most terrifying thing of all was the way the thing was suspended, almost floating, held aloft by wispy feather-like appendages that looked far too thin to support such weight.
“What’s up babe?” Maverick quipped. He took a slow step back and the baby-thing followed.
“You look like a baby, but I’m bettin’ you’re a lot smarter than that, aren’t you? You’re looking at me right now, trying to figure out if maybe I’ve got some kind of plan aren’t you. But maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I’m ready to die tonight. Maybe I don’t have a plan at all.”
Maverick reached for his gun, and in an instant the baby-thing was on him and the fronds were wrapping themselves around Maverick’s neck like a noose.
The baby-thing looked at Maverick with demon-black eyes and opened its mouth far too wide to reveal hundreds of needle teeth.
Maverick reached into his pocket and pulled out the grenade. He yanked the pin with his teeth and spat it in the face of the baby-thing. The baby-thing screeched and retreated down the hall dropping Maverick to the floor like a sack of bricks. The baby-thing ran right into the tripwire Maverick had set earlier and the Claymore mounted to the wall exploded blowing pieces of the baby-thing everywhere.
Maverick set down the grenade and smiled. “Dummy,” he explained.
A little later the chief was slapping Maverick on the back. “I knew I could count on you,” he said. “You always come through for me. This city can breathe easy now that that thing is dead.”
“No,” Maverick said. “No we can’t”
“What do you mean?” the chief asked.
“Because,” Maverick said, “Somewhere out there, that thing has a father.”