Chapter 5: “Tears”
Sherri’s memories of the night before are fleeting, like an MTV music video, or the after-image burn from a flash bulb.
The dress she stole from a thrift shop was too tight and too short, which was what she wanted. If she wanted to make an impression, she had to use what gifts she had. Girls with long, bleach blonde hair always had more fun. The clubs she and her friends visited were indistinguishable from each other. All had loud music, low lights, and lecherous eyes. She found herself in some Italian sports car with some guy twenty years older and too much body hair. He divided his time between the road and her legs. She had no idea where the mansion was, and she didn’t really care.
As she mingled with the rich and wealthy, with their groping eyes and hands, she thought back on her hard life. She always argued with her nagging parents. Her friends always stuck their nose into her life, complaining about her activities and choices. Everyone was always telling her what to do. But not anymore. They were thousands of miles away. She was free.
Some big goon in a suit grabbed Sherri and dragged her to a private room. In there, the men were old, in expensive suits. One of them has serious blue eyes that transfix on her. She transfixes on him. She rambled on about wanting to be a model, jetting off to some exotic locales.
But after consuming twenty too many drinks, the world began to fade away. Mr. Blue Eyes mentioned something about having other uses for her.
The world slams back into Sherri’s mind. The fuzzy memories of the night before give way to the reality of the present. 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, presumably from the previous night’s smoking and heavy drink.
She recoils back, looking at her reflection. She pulls her right hand free from the blanket and runs her fingers through her short, natural brown hair. “What the hell happened to my hair?”
The tingle in her feet and legs becomes sharper, racing up her spine, making her stumble backwards. 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. The blanket around her feels hard, constraining. It makes her stumble. She falls forward, pulling her left arm free of the rigid blanket. Both her hands help stop her fall 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 watches Sherri’s transformation. Although his features, hardened by time and stress, remain unmoved, he secretly marvels at the work accomplished here. He’s impressed. He doesn’t impress easily. But deep down, he also feels threatened, angered that he didn’t foresee this advancement of his Vat technology. But his self-centered, inflated sense of self-importance reminds him that they are doing all this to impress him. All that they have created is already his, now and forever.
Osaka stands in front of a group of men and women in lab coats. One of the scientists stands out. His laminate name tag reveals his name to be ‘Dr. Kohl’, and he works for ‘Bioneers Inc.’. He’s an older man, with thinning white hair and ‘serious’ blue eyes, as Sherri described them. As the demonstration winds down, he quietly, humbly 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.” Osaka says after a moment of silence, trying to hide his jealousy.
“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.” Osaka 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 Osaka, an open, questioning look on his face.
“You have exceeded my fondest dreams here Dr. Kohl.” Osaka 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 developing this process, we must be watchful. We don’t want a repeat of the incident we had with Matthew Mars.”
“I agree!” Kohl replies, eager to explain his plan. “Like you and Mr. Kawaga accomplished with the irregular animals, I hope to improve the irregular human’s psychological aspect of the biological reconfiguration process, including selective synaptic programming and group mentality re-enforcement.” He gestures towards Sherri within the block of ice. “Coldfire is one of our greatest successes. But, as with any new advancement, there is always room for slight mental and emotional fine tuning, as we witnessed.” he turns to look at Osaka, beaming with confidence. “But rest assured, once the process is perfected, they will all become loyal soldiers for whatever need or cause we deem for them.”
Osaka nods, a knowing smile on his lips. “Like, working for your friends in the American government?” he asks in a pointed tone.
Kohl is surprised, but not at being revealed. Quickly, his face lightens to a equally knowing smile. “I was told of your dry wit. But as I assured Mr. Kawaga, my loyalty remains with my colleagues. And if the U.S. government’s Gamma Division wishes to secretly fund our work, who are we to deny alternative sources of funding!”
Work crews begin to make their way into the ice room. Dr. Kohl excuses himself from Osaka and co-ordinates the crew from the control room.
But Osaka barely acknowledges these things. His mind is stuck on Kohl’s words, and the fact that he had already talked to Kawaga. As a younger man, success was always tempered by mistrust. For years, he never feared such things. But time has passed, and continues to pass. People like Kohl and Belladonna, that once bathed in his shadow, now are stepping out of it, beyond it. For the first time in a very long time, he fears for himself, and his security and position.
Malcolm Fain’s parting words from all those years ago suddenly return to him, as if they were spoken yesterday.
“Who will protect you, when your usefulness ends, and your so-called friends turn on you?”
More of that conversation comes to Osaka. He told Fain 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.
Now, with Kohl’s advancement in human irregulars, Belladonna’s work at the top secret labs in South America, and Kawaga obsession with the mysterious device he discovered in Nepal, he fears he will not be the one to go beyond. That everything he has accomplished will be a mere footnote.
Osaka comes out of his thoughts, quickly plastering 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.” Osaka trails off, his worrisome thoughts filling his mind.
Irregulars: Origin of the Species Copyrighted © 2010-2013 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.