A beam pierced through the cheap blinds. And that's exactly what Gregory Florian Joseph felt as the light hit his closed eye lids.The light was piercing, painful, a reminder he wasn't done. Gregory sat up. The thin mattress ruffled the plastic in a painful response to his weight. He had fallen asleep in his clothes. The white button up was wrinkled, and still moist under his armpits from perspiration. His khaki pants were as well wrinkled, like aged skin.
Gregory sat up. He disliked the wrinkles in his pants, they reminded me too much of himself. His room was small, if you could call it a room. He lived what was so affectionately known in the military world as "Containerized Living Unit" which was really just a shipping container made to house a single person. They provided enough, more than Gregory actually needed, he only came here to sleep anyhow. Inside was air conditioned and heated, a single fluorescent bulb provided light, there was a desk with two outlets next to it, and bed which was atop a stand of three drawers. A lone footlocker sat by the bed which is where Gregory really kept his few possessions. A segment was sectioned off, and a single toilet and shower existed with a sink and mirror.
Gregory moved to the sink, splashing water over his face he caught his reflection in the mirror. The left half of his face was smooth along the scalp, his face had some stubble which he could wait until later to shave. His nostril flared and strained to pull along its dead counterpart on the right side. The right side of his face was a bed of dried lakes, ancient and deep. The calloused tissue ran into a muddy like smear to a hole where a right ear should have been.
He turned away. The thought of removing the mirror seemed pleasing, but impractical since he needed to shave his hair as to avoid appearing even more freakish.
He went to the small desk. Papers lined with scatter plot graphs compiled next to his laptop. His laptop continued to work as he had left it. Attempting to breakdown multiple strands of DNA and amino acids. He should have two computers working on each separately, but this was done away from the lab. His real work would be done there. Speaking of, he needed to get back to his routine.
He stepped out of his CLU into fringed air, locking his door behind him.
He would spend the next 12 hours in his laboratory, where he would then return to his CLU and work more from his laptop for another 8 hours. He would then fall asleep, and repeat the process. He would have to eat today, yes have to, he forgot to yesterday and his stomach growled in protest. Work would subside the feeling, but he could not allow it to hinder work. If it wasn't for the nature of his work, he'd eat as he worked, but the risk of contamination was astronomical. He couldn't allow such hindrance, wouldn't allow it.
The air bit at his cheeks, at his cheek. An exhale blew clouds out. More chilling than the weather was them. Walking erect, in single man patrols, husky masked men in winter camouflage secured the compound. But it wasn't their size, it wasn't all the gear, the masks, the thick goggles that concealed their eyes, or their big guns that made them chilling. It was what was inside.
The patrolling guard stopped, turning his neck to watch as Gregory walked. Gregory lowered his head. He could feel the eyes on him, the eyes probing in, knowing that his own essence was showing. The predatory stare did not relent.
The first flakes of snow began to fall.
Gregory reached the door to the lab. Looking back the guard still stood in place, the snow building up around his uniform. The goggles made it impossible to tell where he was looking, but he was positive the guard stared right at him.
Gregory fumbled for his ID in his pocket. He waved it over a panel next to the door, and was relieved to hear it click unlocked. He expected it to some how deny him, leaving him trapped in the stare of the lone guard. He sped inside, the door slammed shut with its weight behind him.
The heat immediately pounded against him. A feeling of claustrophobia began to form. He stood at the intersection of a landing between two flights of stairs. The short flight down leads to a door which he did not have access to, which would lead to the weapons development department. Though, it could be argued his work was every bit a piece of weapon development as well. Well, no, it was, without a doubt.
Gregory started the flight up the stairs. It was two flights to the landing with his door. Using his card once more, the door clicked unlocked for him.
The hall was a long modular hall. Steel panels and grating allow for segments of the walls, floor, and ceiling to be expanded with new devices as needed. This wing of the facility being only three years old, required no new additions at the moment. The following main room took up the entire floor length of the building. Consoles line two separate walls. Empty desks and work stations line another, the desk set to monitor fragile petri dishes in self contained environments mounted into the wall. The far end wall had both his own workstation and monitoring console. Two tall lockers were in the nearby corner, and only a single lab coat, his hung in one of the lockers.
The prize of the room however was the center. A large, square, transparent vat was the centerpiece. The vat was filled with a blue tinted gelatin, tubes ran from compressors and monitors into the vat to the central subject. A man in appearance, body completely void of hair, his pale skin never touched by real light. His body almost look malformed, the tubes leading into his mouth and veins supply nutrients but did not allow fat, and his body looked like the muscles under the skin were sucking in the flesh outside. The hairless body remained suspended, more by the mass of supportive tubes leading into every orifice of his body than by the blue gelatin.
The man floating there represented many things. To the Soviets, and those past, a phantom. Someone only sought after from failed attempts of espionage. To the United States, the greatest leap in genetic research. A national interest and icon to perpetuate the image of American presence everywhere. To Gregory, a terror, pain, and a lost cause to someone who slipped away from everyone in another lifetime. There was contempt too, acceptance that bigger, greater advancements elsewhere would make everything he worked for obsolete in one simple broad sweep of the pen.
Gregory moved the back of his left hand to his forehead. He hadn't even noticed he had done so until he felt the rubbery feeling of scar tissue. Repulsed he yanked his hand away from his forehead. It had been a nervous tick of his for years. He fought to overcome it, but it came back. His colleagues would mock him in college as he struggled with formulas, counting digits with his raised hand against his forehead in frustration. There was nothing to fear about his position. He told himself it all to focus his mind. His experience and education in biology was just as vital as his expertise in robotics and biological engineering. Even if this program was shut down tomorrow, which hopefully it would, he would just be moved downstairs to finish his efforts there.
A click from behind him indicated the other researchers had arrived. Gregory put on his one lab coat as the others filed into the room. The servers whispered in the air with their hums of activation as men as diligent as he went to work to progress science.
Lost in work, their day began to disappear. Their eyes on molecules, DNA, enzymes, whiteboards littered with equations, and computer screens attempting to map out code while men worked the beginning to find errors or anomalies. Lunch was lost, and slowly, the weaker minds allowed their stomachs to call their attention away, and slowly, one by one the other researchers left to take their late lunch. Gregory, left alone, at a computer screen, they knew better than to interrupt his thoughts, watched as the newest lines of genetic code were laid out across a dark screen.
Gregory felt his fingers running across his palm as he found comfort in digits, the screen before his eyes fading as he saw things elsewhere in his mind. Each sequence coming closer the end state and unlocking the next great leap.
He became aware of a click at the door, and then suddenly tossing his hand down realizing he had done it again. Looking up he expected to see the researchers coming in again, but instead a solid bearded man stood examining the center vat.
Gregory shot up, startled but realized suddenly the awkwardness of it. The piercing blue eyes of the man shifted over to him. Zane Lumbard stood half a foot taller than Gregory, the bushy beard and bulging muscles made him a visual opposite of Gregory. Zane was the commander for the newly organized special forces unit assigned to the installation. Because his soldiers were directly involved from the project, he also oversaw Gregory's work at times. When Gregory first heard about Lumbard, the hushed whispers told many fantastic stories, and of course called him Insane Lumbard. Be that for him actually being insane, or his name just sounding like insane, he could never really tell, both could be true, and probably were.
"Dr. Florian, working alone again I see." Gregory only rubbed his nose in response, he was cut off before he could speak. "How long before your work can be integrated into the robotics department?" Gregory knew what he was asking. It has been a long term goal to develop a biomechanical machine to run. The idea was to create more maneuverable, flexible, and self healing machines.
"Umm, it-it's still ugh, m-months away." Zane's eyes narrowed on him. "It-it hasn't been the f-focus! I-I c-can't even g-get the enzymes right in him!" He said pointing to the vat and growing frustrated with his own stutter coming out before Zane.
"It's alright Doctor. I am sure under the right work conditions we can get you the time and equipment to finish your work. Imagine a state where your work would be cherished." Zane turned and began to walk away, continuing his monologue. "A state where soldiers are the essence of being. It all existed once Doctor." Zane was down the hall now. "And it will all exist again." There was the click of the door shutting, and he was gone.
The next hours seemed to drag out. The researchers came back, went to work. Zane's words stayed with Gregory in every minute. Distracting and confusing. Zane has many, unusual, mannerisms, but random monologues had never occurred. He knew Zane had extensive combat experience, he wondered if long stretches of being stuck in the installation had taken a toll on what he could only guess was extensive PTSD from covert operations. Or maybe he really was insane, he didn't know, the US military may not be all it appears to be, maybe they take a certain level of insanity.
The hours passed and he had not completed any real work. Any other day it would be unacceptable for him to consider leaving with so little accomplished, but as the others began to set their computers and severs into standby he felt exhausted. He had racked his brain over Zane's words to no avail. The more time he had sank into, the more ominous it became. As if he had met a rattlesnake for the first time, and didn't know what to think of the rattle, but something deep inside demanded extreme caution.
There came a click at the door of someone entering, several people entering. Gregory was at the locker, he had just hung up his coat. He peered around the corner and saw three of the soldiers approaching. His blood ran cold. With no reason or indication why, he slinked back and stepped into the locker. The locker shut and he watched from the slits as his peers stopped at the sudden site before them, they came in. Gregory could not make out what the soldier said, some form of command, and one of the researchers declining to follow suit.
Like a howitzer going off the room was filled with piercing noise and blinding white light as the soldier gunned down the researcher. The others quickly filed out, docile to their captures having seen the result of resistance. Two followed the researchers out, the shooter remained. Blood had splattered the wall.
Gregory stayed, frozen inside of the tiny cubical watching the scene that couldn't happen, that absolutely couldn't happen, yet was. The lone shooter removed his mask from his face. The hairless head moved closer to the wall, as one would lean in for a tender kiss to a dearly beloved. Gregory watched as the shooter took a long, slow, dragging lick of the blood off the wall.
Gregory let out a cold breath. The shooter's head snapped back, the cold blue piercing eyes on the locker.
- Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?
I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.