“We all know he’s going to set himself on fire one day,” Robert said, throwing up his hands. He was sick to death of these department meetings.
“So… what of it? They all set themselves on fire sooner or later,” General Irri answered.
“Exactly. Sooner or later we lose them all. I’d say that’s a major problem.”
“Are you suggesting we scrap the program?”
“I’m saying we should think about it.”
Everyone looked at Robert as if he had two heads, but Robert couldn’t watch even one more tragedy play out in front of him. On Rick Bodeker he took his stand.
Rick had been grinding a neo-natal compound when it exploded, blowing yittrium 93 and shards of his pestle onto the lenses of his eyes. It was almost always pharmacists, family men.
“I’m tired of watching it,” Robert sighed, “We’ve tried everything, and we can’t teach them to control it. Sooner or later they glare at their wife or their kid or their dog or just some schmuck on the street, and- boom! All the time we put into them is wasted. We can’t even count on the bachelors. What could they possibly regret? Not the terrorists? The instant they start down that I-hate-myself train of thought, the game’s over. I watched the last guy set himself on fire in the middle of a counseling session. How do you think that makes me feel?” Robert searched the faces to see if he was reaching anyone. He wasn’t.
“Robert, you need a vacation,” General Irri glanced at the officers guarding the door. They stepped forward and stood on either side of Robert’s chair. Robert made a decision in that moment to get to Rick first. A good hard look at the general is all it would take.
[Written for Cracked Flash Fiction Challenge, 296 words. Confession: I’ve been fleshing out this premise in a 3000+ short story that I can neither perfect nor abandon. If it feels like a lot of the story isn’t there, that’s because it’s on a draft in my computer. Stay tuned.]