As per his nighttime routine, he checked the security panel to ensure that the system would alert him of any intrusions on the perimeter he’d set around the lab. The doctor was putting in a late night, also consistent with his normal regimen, successfully employing the strategy of hiding in plain sight. After engaging the lock and closing the blinds over the glass door, he crouched behind his desk, feeling around the legs until he’d released each of the four latches holding it in place. It was easy then to slide the desk two and a half feet toward the door and expose the hatch while still keeping it concealed from anyone entering the room, not that there was any real possibility of a visitor. Next, he unlocked the bottom left drawer of the desk, removing a brown leather journal and replacing it with the Army service garrison he’d pulled from his head. He took care to collapse the cap along the crease, the polished silver eagle pinned to the top. Although Colonel was undoubtedly a commendable distinction, he did consider the PhD at the other end of his name the more honorific of his titles. But he didn’t need reminding that both ranks were necessary to conduct his ground-breaking research. He released the rope ladder at the top of the opening, paused for one more visual sweep, and made his descent. Once his feet landed on the concrete floor, his hand reached out automatically to flip the wall switch. The fluorescent hum was quickly drowned out by the scurrying of little feet against glass and shavings as the inhabitants of the repurposed bunker came to life. Roll call, as he liked to think of it, began to the immediate right of his entry point and would proceed clockwise around the four walls – forty-eight feet of cages stacked three high. He flipped to the next blank page in his journal, almost at the end of this eighteenth volume of copious notes, and used the standard issue Get The Lead Out ball-point to tap a friendly greeting on the glass of specimen 92-9A13. His tiny, whiskered subject hardly needed encouragement; he was literally bouncing off the walls – and ceiling – of his cage as if the floor was made of rubber. “Take it easy, Jordan,” the doctor chuckled in a fatherly tone as he let his eyes pass briefly over the mouse’s equally buoyant neighbors. Though their freakish agility would have astounded anyone else, it failed to merit more than a passing glance from their designer. These, his earliest and most successful creations, were well-established and gave him no surprise. They were ready. He continued past a stretch of clean and empty cages before reaching the next section. The specimens along this second wall earned the same friendly but tepid response as he’d given the others, though their eerie stillness stood in sharp contrast to group one. The only movement came from furry subject 92-9I71 who, while showing no reaction to the human observer, continued tapping out a heavy rhythm along the back wall with her tail. The doctor followed her unwavering rodent gaze to the spitting serpent at the far end of her cage. Instead of feeling guilty for having forgotten to put back her safety wall, his eyes glittered with anticipation. The smooth, black snake first coiled to attack, then dove forward to strike, only to stop an inch short of its target as if blocked by an unseen force. If his hands hadn’t been full of pen and journal, the doctor would’ve clapped his hands in approval. Instead, he rewarded her defensive maneuver with a rare bit of compassion. “Let’s give you a night of rest, my Ludi,” he said, and dropped a partition down the center of the cage to separate the combatants. The denied viper continued to spit in the mouse’s direction, but her opponent had already curled up in a protective ball to recuperate from the extended period of intense concentration. “I know you’re in there,” the doctor called teasingly as he next approached group three - a line of seemingly unoccupied cages. His ears perked up immediately at the rustling response and he bent at the waist to peer into a cage on the lowest level marked 92-9M129. His eyes lit up to see the shavings part as if by an invisible breeze. “Ah, Griffin, there you are,” he purred, tracing one finger down the glass and making a brief rubbing gesture near the disturbed spot. “I know you hate being woken up at night, but you know how much I love not seeing you.” He laughed at his own private joke. It was then with near giddiness that he proceeded to the fourth section, quickly closing the journal and placing it atop 92-9Q224. He put his hands on either side of the glass enclosure to peer within, intent as if searching the gaze of his beloved. The shimmering creature inside nearly took his breath away and he absently stroked the enclosure as he cooed, “You’re going to blind Dr. Heigl one of these days, Siri.” She was his prize; his crowning achievement, his star. It took several minutes for him to tear his eyes away from her, straighten up, and reclaim his journal. Like a lovestruck boy at the end of a dance, he backed toward the exit, reluctant to leave and end the enchanted evening. It was only after he’d placed a hand on the ladder that he realized he’d overlooked someone. He turned back to address the lone occupied cage to his immediate left, 87-9X. “Hey, didn’t mean to pass you by, little man.” The gray mouse sat up on its hind legs to lock beady eyes as the doctor continued, “It’s time, old friend. They’re ready.” He made a sweeping gesture to include all of the other subjects and ended with a winking salute. Then he turned back toward the exit, hit the lights, and climbed up. After deftly replacing the desk to camouflage the secret door and once again securing the journal in the locked drawer, he looked up and caught his reflection in the window glass. He jauntily flicked his stiff cap with one finger, his mouth widening in a fiendish grin as he unabashedly admired the face of the soon-to-be most revered geneticist in, not just military or medical, but, in fact, world history.
Clio Kaid may be 17 and just beginning the last summer before
her senior year, but her life is anything but typical.
She's just discovered she was genetically altered before birth and
is now headed to a top-secret Army campus to explore the
surprising results of the experiment.
Follow Clio and the other teens as they develop fantastic super-abilities,
forge new friendships, find love, and uncover a conspiracy along the way.