Professor James Oak and his chief assistant Cary Frederick went over each man quietly and calmly. Tissue samples were taken and stored in case an analysis would be needed to gauge the changes on each of the volunteers. Then each of the guinea pigs was taken to his own cell to wait for the next step in the experiment.
Lieutenant Shrieve remained there to escort each man and act as guard in case any of them decided to take a hostage and try to escape. He worked quietly and ruthlessly in the performance of his duty.
It made Frederick nervous to be under such scrutiny while he waited for the special prisoner to come to his senses and try to escape the facility.
Private Roy Miller looked out the window of his room. It was a nice view of the desert on three sides of the base. A chain-link fence ran around the perimeter as far as he could see. Patrols drove back and forth along the fence quietly in front of his perch.
If he could get out of his room, he would have to get out of the building and cross the wasteland before an alarm and search could start. That wasn’t likely, since he didn’t know which way to run. He had a good chance of dying before he could even get over the fence.
It was better to wait and see what happened when they put that stuff in him, he decided. He had a better chance of surviving that and being returned to his cell at Leavenworth than an escape.
As the sun slowly worked toward the horizon, Miller continued staring out the window, wondering if certain death was perhaps better than a small chance of survival.
Professor Oak checked the reports on each of the applicants. Vials of manufactured serum rested in a rack on a nearby table, while wrapped disposable needles lay in a tray next to the rack. The serum had strange bubbles floating in it as the artificial DNA worked through it.
Colonel Sanchez stood in the doorway patiently, his blocky face placid at the orders he had to carry out. It would put him in front of a war crimes tribunal when the war ended. But that was only if the war ended and if the experiment was disclosed. As for the professor, he didn’t want to think what he would have to go through if his part in this was discovered. “Ready?” asked Sanchez.
“As I’ll ever be,” replied Oak.
“Let’s get this over with,” said the colonel. “We’re fooling ourselves if we think this is going to get any easier as time goes by.”
The professor nodded, placing the rack and needles on a cart. The two then headed for the makeshift hospital rooms for the volunteers.
Roy Miller sat on his bed and rolled his sleeve up without being told. He watched dispassionately as a hypodermic needle was prepped for use by Cary Frederick.
The lab assistant plunged the needle into Miller’s arm, and one push of his thumb dumped all of the serum into the convict’s bloodstream in a moment of blinding pain.
Miller couldn’t tell if the pain was from the needle in his vein or if it was from the serum turning him into a super-soldier. All he knew was that there was now a raging fire spreading through his system.
He lay down on the bed, thinking that maybe he would be lucky and nothing would happen to him at all. It would be the first piece of good luck since he had been sentenced to imprisonment at Leavenworth.
Frederick placed the used needle in a disposal box on the cart, making notes of the time of the injection on the chart he had with him. One more victim to inject and he would be done with this part of things. He would then be allowed to return to his own quarters while nurses monitored things with the help of Lieutenant Shrieve. He wondered how many he had helped killed with this untried stuff.
Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve and Sergeant Pat Riley had been told to keep watch and record and report the symptoms if or when they should appear. They took alternating shifts on watch as the hours continued to march by. Shrieve was on duty and reading an article in Life magazine when things began to fall apart.
First came the screams. Then one of the test subjects, Kenny Kiel, suddenly burst into flames, running for the door and screaming at the top of his lungs. Grabbing at the locked door to his room, Kiel began heating the metal as his fingers wrapped around the knob, causing it to begin steaming.
Reacting instinctively to put the flames out, Shrieve grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher from a wall hook as Kiel burned his way through the door. He pulled the pin and directed the nozzle at his escaping prisoner, then pressed the grip.
A cloud of foam forcefully wrapped around Kiel, and the lieutenant winced at the cry that erupted from the private’s mouth as the carbon dioxide soaked into his skin. Spraying the extinguisher dry, he was thankful that the building’s sprinklers finally decided to erupt in a rain storm.
When the fog cleared, Kenny Kiel had become nothing more than a statue of charred carbon that began to be washed away by the water and soon crumbled under its own weight.
As Roy Miller slept, the pain fading enough from his injection to allow that, dreams floated through his mind. He felt nothing more than a pinprick at first. Then suddenly that tiny spot flared into a raging fire in his arm.
Rolling in his sleep as he dreamed a monster had seized him, Miller fell off the bed with a thump. Loud cries reached his ears as he awoke, and he felt extreme pain in his head and arms.
“What happened?” he asked himself, examining the room around him. He heard the sound of distant screams and frantic orders. Something alarming was happening elsewhere, he guessed. That was when Miller realized his eyes were closed, and he could see right through his eyelids.
He bit back his own scream, telling himself he was still asleep and safely his bunk. You could do anything in dreams. You could even see through solid flesh.
Staggering into the bathroom, Miller looked into the small mirror over the sink. He finally screamed then, now fully aware of what had happened to him.
The United States Army had brought ten men to use the chemical synthesized from the Manhunter of the S.S. Ubermenschen. Six died within hours, while the other four became freaks.
Roy Miller had stopped screaming when a nurse pumped him full of sedative in his temporary bathroom. The man with the x-ray eyes had been so entranced by what he saw in the mirror that he never even noticed her arrival.
The three others had been mutated in different but still horrific ways.
Stefan Queen had been gathered into a plastic tub, his body mass having been turned to jelly yet somehow remaining alive. The blob he was now stirred gruesomely, reaching with phantom hands as the drugs saturated his system.
Martin Cove had pulled himself into the bathroom. Although he wanted to scream, he hadn’t because he was having a hard time adjusting to both breathing air and growing gills at the same time. Turning on the shower, he let the water wash over him, instinctively knowing that was what he needed more than anything. The creature he now was, looking like he had come from a deep black lagoon, kept his eyes closed as scales grew over his skin.
The last man, David Vincent, hovered above his bed, energy wrapping him in a cocoon and keeping his nurses away from him. He had only screamed once when his transformation had first begun. Ever since then, he had been eerily silent.
Later, as the remaining four prisoners were herded into one room, Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve grimaced at the sight of them. The rest had died grotesquely, unable to deal with the transformations wrought by the Manhunter’s altered DNA. He would have to file reports on what happened as soon as he could figure out how to explain away the chaotic events.
At least the lab and hospital had survived the resulting display. The Atomic Energy Commission would have to refit the top of the building. That was out of Shrieve’s hands. All he was concerned with were his monstrous charges.
Who would have thought his career would lead him into a fantasyland like this? He thought idly that he needed to get a transfer out of this chicken outfit as soon as possible, before he was completely and utterly FUBARed.
Colonel Sanchez sat at his desk reading the reports from Damage Control. The top floor would have to be renovated and restored. Professor Oak’s reports on the subjects said the transformation they had suffered had put them into deep comas. The professor didn’t know when they would wake up, if they would wake up at all. All told, it was an expensive failure for the Project.
Putting the reports aside, Sanchez dug out his pipe and tobacco and sat back in his chair. After stuffing the bowl, he struck a match and puffed the pipe alight while thinking about what else could wrong.
It was at that moment that the alarm blared over the loudspeaker.
“Me and my big mouth,” he muttered to himself as he rushed from the room.
Sanchez hurried to the security room to find out what the emergency was. There were only two things on base it could be. The Manhunter or the experiments. Let it be the experiments, he thought desperately.