Professor James Oak looked through the microscope intently, hardly believing what he was staring at. The sample was literally trying to squirm off the slide and escape. His hands slightly trembling, he pulled the slide loose and placed it in a secured case. Putting the locked case in a refrigerator to keep the sample fresh, he considered his next move. The professor didn’t quite know what he was going to put in his report.
He did know what he had been looking at, however. He had been examining a sample of altered DNA and cell tissue from his test subject, the Manhunter of the SS Ubermenschen. Based on the DNA, he had concluded that the Manhunter’s extraterrestrial origins had been yet another Nazi lie, and that contrary to his supposed Martian origins, he must have been created in a lab.
Two questions now arose from this fact. One, how it had been done? And two, who was brilliant enough to have done it? Once he was able to surmise the answer to the first question, he could duplicate the process and make his own super-soldiers for America. That was the primary purpose of Project M.
Oak went to his office after securing his sample. He had numerous reports to send back to Washington, D.C., and some of the points in his research were positive. The difficult part of the job was to set everything in layman’s terms for the President, the House, and the Senate. He didn’t look forward to doing that. It was hard enough finding the right technical terms for scientific methods. Using plain language wasn’t nearly exact enough.
Sitting down, the professor began trying to come up with a way to explain genetic design in one- or two-syllable words. He stared at the blank paper for some time before he started typing.
A few hours later, Professor Oak put aside his reports for the moment and rubbed his eyes. He had to get some more papers from the lab to finish the report for his superiors.
Oak waved to his assistant, Cary Frederick, as he stepped into the lab and looked around for the papers he needed. A knock on the door came as he finally found the reports, interrupting the idle thought that the reports had grown legs because they were in the wrong place.
“Hello, Colonel Sanchez,” Oak said, not looking up to greet his visitor as he flipped purposefully through the loose sheets.
“Hello, Professor,” said the base commander, whose brown hair was speckled with gray. He had crow’s feet and a perpetual squint from a lifetime of glaring into the sun. “I have some bad news for you.”
“What kind of bad news?” Oak asked, finally looking up from his papers at him. Sanchez was a master of understatement, so if he said the news was bad, it was likely to be horrific by anyone else’s standards.
“The brass wants you to take this stuff and inject it into test subjects,” Sanchez said in a neutral tone. “They want to see what happens to the guinea pigs. See if it can be used to start creating our own supermen.”
“That’s an impossibility,” said Oak, a line drawing down his forehead in concern. “Anything could happen if we inject this unstable substance into a normal body.”
“They want to know what,” said Sanchez. “They want to know if the altered DNA can be shaped when it starts working through a human being’s ordinary DNA.”
“That’s irresponsible at best,” said Oak, placing his reports on a nearby table. “At worst, we could end up creating monsters far worse than the one we have locked up.”
“Professor, if you don’t go along,” said Sanchez. “They’ll want to replace you with someone who will. We’re at war.”
Oak looked at Sanchez’s bluff face. He knew the colonel also didn’t like the orders but would still go through with it. Their nation was at war with a ruthless enemy, and any risk that would end the war early would be taken, even if innocent lives were lost in the attempt. “When do they want this thing to start?” asked the professor, weary from the days of work he had already put in.
“As soon as possible,” said Sanchez. “The subjects will be arriving in a few hours. After that, it will be up to you to determine how you want to handle things.”
“I see,” said Oak. “I want you to understand that this could be utterly disastrous.”
The colonel nodded. “I know,” he said and turned to go.
As Oak returned to his office with the papers, his assistant went about his own business. Cary Frederick had become Oak’s chief assistant after having worked his way through several screenings by the FBI. Unbeknownst to either Oak or the FBI, however, Frederick reported everything he knew to a man he knew only as Eric.
This day he had received a message from Eric ordering him to wake up the captive from California. The idea was to let the Manhunter run amuck while Frederick would grab whatever notes he could and sneak them out of the facility.
That would put an end to Project M as well as the New Mexico base itself when the Manhunter busted free. There was no doubt, according to Eric, that the escape would inflict numerous casualties among the staff and security assigned to the place in the desert.
The Manhunter was kept sedated, constantly administered drugs intravenously. Frederick adjusted the intravenous feed to enable the pale thing to wake up slowly, allowing him plenty of time to either sneak away as planned or establish an alibi in case something went wrong.
He didn’t want to outlive his usefulness if the army troopers somehow got the Manhunter under control before he could fight his way clear.
Deep in the bowels of Project M, the Nazi super-agent known as the Manhunter of the SS Ubermenschen began to stir in the care of his electronic monitors. His fingers flexed and clawed blindly at the mattress he lay on, and his eyelids occasionally flickered as he struggled with the weakening influence of the drugs that slowly dripped away.
His sleeping mind demanded revenge on the one called Quicksilver, who had captured him for the Allies. He would rip out the man’s spine as soon as he awakened. For now he had to dream and relive his defeat repeatedly until he could return to the real world.
Professor James Oak and Colonel Sanchez waited at the field hospital for the arriving subjects for the planned experiments. Oak had continued work on the experimental DNA until he was sure it would bond with the target DNA. All that needed to be done was to inject the resulting solution into a human being and seeing how much he could wreck the rest of their lives. Acid burned in his stomach at the thought.
A half-ton, olive-colored army truck rolled to a stop in front of the hospital, and a lieutenant bailed out of the passenger side. Heading to the rear, he threw the gate down and shouted something to the passengers in the back of the truck. Men began hopping down, forming a line in front of the hospital. They raggedly came to attention when the lieutenant shouted at them.
“Let’s meet our draftees,” Sanchez said grimly, leading the way out of the receiving room.
Colonel Sanchez looked at each of the men. Having gone over their files when he had been ordered to oversee the experiment, he was not happy with what he saw when he looked into their eyes that first time. “Do any of you know why you are here?” he asked.
The men looked confused at the question.
“What were your orders, Lieutenant?” Sanchez asked.
“Sir, I was ordered to pick ten men out of the brig and escort them here for detached duty,” said the junior officer.
“Let me tell you the reason why you’re here,” said Colonel Sanchez. “We have in our possession a special agent of the German government. We hope to use chemicals synthesized from that agent to recreate his abilities in one of you. The process is untried and risky. Anyone who wants to return to his cell and suffer his punishment, get back on the truck.”
The men looked at him blankly.
“All right, then. You should know that this is a highly classified project. Professor Oak will have to examine you, assign room numbers, and get your paperwork filled out. Then we’ll have a more comprehensive briefing on the means and such.” He looked at the men, waiting for a reaction that never came. “If anyone tries to get off base before the experiment is done,” warned Sanchez, “you will be shot. Good luck.”
As he walked away, the colonel added, “Lieutenant Shrieve, get them sorted out as fast as you can.”
“You heard the man,” shouted Shrieve. “Form up at the door, and let’s get started.”