The last thing Sherri remembers was partying it up at some mansion, trying to catch the eye of some old, rich guy who would promise her happiness in front of a camera in some exotic locales. But where she finds herself isn’t a happy place.
She rises from a sterile hospital bed, the blankets covering her slender, naked body itch and scratch. Her heads feels three sizes too big as she looks around the room, squinting at the harsh, white lights. The room is like the bed and the sheets; plain, bland, unfeeling, unpleasant. Equipment quietly hum along the walls, with various display screens and graphs. At the far end, a mirrored wall reflects the room’s insipid indifference.
She slowly gets up from the bed, wrapping the blanket around her. When her bare feet touch the floor, she feels a tingle. She pulls her feet back up and looks down. Seems normal. So she stands, the tingle returns in her feet and slowly creeping up her legs.
She walks towards the mirrored wall and presses her face close to it. “Hello?” she calls out, her voice hoarse from the previous night’s smoke and heavy drink.
The tingle becomes sharper, racing through her spine, making her recoil from the mirrored wall. She turns, trying to walk back to the bed. But her legs twitch uncontrollably, almost tossing her to the floor. The equipment around her hums louder, graphs dance on screens that seem to be covered in frost.
“Help!” she tries to call out, but her plea is barely audible over the crackling of plastic. She looks towards the machines as the frost becomes ice.
She forces herself forward, to the bed. The blanket around her feels hard, constraining. It makes her stumble. She falls, but pulls her hands free of the rigid blanket and stops herself by gripping the end of the bed.
The blanket around her falls and shatters on the floor.
Light blue flames course over her body. They flow down her arms, leap from her hands and race up the bed. Vapors rise from the mattress as the surface freezes into a shining white sheet of ice.
She recoils from the bed, pulling her hands free. Flakes of ice, and frozen pieces of the bed, are stuck to her hands.
“Help me!” she screams as dark blue flames engulf her body. They shoot from her hands and lick against the wall. The white cement freezes and cracks from intense cold. More flames pour out of her body, spilling down her legs and across the floor, flowing and touching everything in the room. The equipment ceases to work, becoming blocks of solid ice that crack and shatter from the plummeting temperature. The cold flames race up the walls and touch the ceiling. Soon, the room is a freezing inferno of a fire that burns in varying intensities, from midnight blue to that of a summer sky.
She falls to her hands and knees, wailing in uncontrollable terror. Her tears, like icy blue liquid, stream down her face. The room is awash in flames of ice.
She feels the ice gripping her, becoming solid. She tries to move, but all she can do is curl up on her side, on the floor. Through the crystal-clear block of ice that was once a room, she looks upon the mirrored wall.
Behind the mirrored wall, Dr. Osaka Lo stands among men and women in lab coats. There was a time when he was one of them. But that feels like a lifetime ago. He could never be one of them again. He’s apart from them, better than them. Beyond them.
Time and work have slimmed Lo, hardened his features. The one thing that has not changed, his sense of self-importance. He has grown into what was once an inflated sense of power. Instead of impressing others, they must impress him. From what he has seen today, despite his cool, indifferent exterior, he is impressed.
One of the men in lab coats, with ‘Dr. Kohl’ on his name tag, stands beside Lo, looking on with pride. He’s an older man, with thinning white hair and intense blue eyes. He steps forward and types on a keyboard on the control panel in front of the mirrored wall.
The lights within the frozen room dim. The flames shrink in size and intensity, until they fade away, leaving a massive block of ice with a young woman inside.
“Excellent work.” Lo says after a moment of silence, admiring what he has witnessed.
“I…” Kohl pauses, glancing at his assistants, “We, could not have done any of this without your research. Project ‘Ursidae’ was a wealth of knowledge, but without Dr. Fain’s notes, we’d be filling mass graves instead of witnessing the next step of human evolution!”
“Indeed.” Lo replies, hesitantly. He gives Kohl a look that says ‘we should speak, in private’.
Kohl nods and turns to his assistants. “If you could give us a moment everyone. You’ve all done excellent work, you should be proud.”
Kohl claps his approval, and his assistants follow suit before slowly filing out. Once alone, Kohl turns back to Lo, an open, questioning look on his face.
“You have exceeded my fondest dreams here Dr. Kohl.” Lo says as he marvels at the ice room. “But you must be careful with your subjects.” He turns to face Kohl, wariness in his tone. “If we are to continue this partnership, we can’t afford another incident like we had with Matthew Mars.”
“I agree!” Kohl replies, eager to explain his plan. “Like Mr. Kawaga, I hope to instill a group mentality among the best and brightest subjects, like Coldfire.” He gestures to Sherri within the block of ice. “Along with some mental and emotional fine tuning, they will become loyal soldiers for whatever cause we deem for them.”
“Like your friends in the American government?” Lo asks in a pointed tone.
Kohl is surprised at first, but steps forward, implying his own bravado. “Mr. Kawaga has many partners, some of which overlap with my alternative sources of funding. Regardless of where the money comes from, my loyalty remains here.”
Lo looks upon Kohl with a sense of nostalgia. There was a time when he was eager and full of hope. All that mattered was the science and the discovery. He remembers how nervous he was meeting Kawaga for the first time, for that first donation. But he believed in what he was doing. He believed that something great and wonderful would come out of his theories.
Lo is also reminded of the last time he saw Malcolm Fain. He told Fain that his work was for the betterment of mankind, that the ends justified the means. But he was lying to himself as much as he was lying to Fain. He didn’t care about the world. All that mattered was pushing the science as far as it could go. Then going beyond that. Beyond even this world.
Lo comes out of his thoughts, a fake smile on his lips. “Sorry Dr. Kohl. I was lost in the magnificence of your work. Truly brilliant.”
“Please Dr. Lo,” Kohl smiles humbly, “You pioneered all of this.”
“But you have taken up the cause. You and your peers will continue to advance what I have started, taking it far beyond what I could have imagined.”
Kohl smiles sheepishly. He opens his mouth to speak when Lo interjects.
“From what I’ve seen here today, I will do what I can to ensure that your loyalty is with the Cat Clan and not with…” Lo trails off, searching for the right title.
“The Division.” Kohl blurts out the answer for Lo, realizing too late he probably shouldn’t have. “Well, the fifth, the future version of the Division if all goes well.” he rambles to a whisper.
Lo smiles, glad his stature made his gathering of information that much easier. He takes Kohl’s hand, shaking it. “I’m sure this union will be a lasting one.”
“Yes Dr. Lo! Thank you Dr. Lo. And thank Mr. Kawaga.” Kohl replies, pride beaming from within.
After Lo leaves, Kohl walks up to the mirrored wall and looks into the room as workers begin to chip away at room-sized block of ice.
Kohl puts his hand to the glass, tenderly running his hand along it’s surface. “This is just the beginning, my child. A new world is dawning. Soon, there will be so many more.”
A tear trickles down his cheek.
Within the room, Sherri is an ice-bound statue of hopeless anguish. Tears still course down her cheeks before freezing in place.
Irregulars: Origin of the Species Copyrighted © 2010-2012 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.