Tubes and wires snaked their way from the patient’s body, disappearing into machines whose purpose the average person couldn’t understand. The steady thump hiss from the ventilator kept the man on the table alive. Could he still be considered a man? The jury remained out on that question.
The sickly green tiles covering the walls gave the room an insane asylum feel. They traveled down to the floor and crawled across its surface. A single drain rested in the center of the room. Stainless steel tables and trays lined the walls. Instruments that seemed to have been torn from the pages of science fiction rags waited to be used.
One of the many doctors checked the patient’s vital signs and made several entries on the chart. “Body temp is holding steady at sixty-eight degrees. Brain activity is minimal. It’s time.”
The double doors to the operating room swung inward. Another doctor strode into the surgical suite. He glanced toward the viewing room at the top of the chamber. Four men in black suits stared back. The one on the end nodded and reached for a button set into the wall.
An internal intercom system crackled to life. “Are you ready to make history?” the man asked, his face shielded by the reflections on the glass. “Are you ready to change the world?”
The doctor moved to the far wall and checked his instruments. “I’m ready to show you that the serum isn’t viable,” he replied. “Your time table isn’t feasible. By forcing us to proceed, you’re killing this man.” He gestured back toward the body on the table.
“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, Doctor.” The reply was cold, calculated.
“But you can have all the ingredients on hand before you start cooking.” He struggled with his ethical duty as a doctor. He had sworn an oath to do no harm. He couldn’t be a part of this. “Find someone else.”
He headed back toward the swinging doors. A tense silence fell over the room.
He reached the doors. They swung in to meet him. Men with automatic rifles poured into the room. The intercom crackled again.
“You will do what we’ve paid you to do, Doctor, or we will find someone else.” A noticeable pause stretched into an awkward silence. “You don’t want that to happen,” the shadowed figure warned. “If it does, you will become our second test subject.” The need for veiled threats had passed. Too much rested on the success of this project to allow anything or anyone to interfere. The Soviets weren’t waiting around. All available information indicated that they led the race.
The doctor raised his hands in mock surrender and backed away from the armed men. “I don’t want to be remembered as some sort of Dr. Frankenstein,” he muttered.
The man in the booth smiled. “No one will ever know you were involved in this, Doctor. Once you’ve perfected the Sekhmet Serum, you can go back to your genetic research.” A lie, of course, but the doctor needed some assurances. “You are but one cog in a much bigger wheel.”
He nodded and slid his surgical mask into place. His eyes appeared wary over the cloth fabric. “Let’s get this over with,” he said, the words muffled beneath the mask. He stepped to the table.
“Body temp is still holding steady,” his assistant confirmed.
“Begin the injection process. First the stabilizing agent, then the toxoplasmosis concentrate.”
The assistant removed the first vial from the tray and injected the contents into the subjects IV. The dark liquid coursed through the clear plastic tubing and disappeared into the man’s arm. All eyes drifted to the life sign monitor. No change.
The second vile contained a lighter colored liquid. The assistant handled the syringe with more care. This was the culmination of over a year of Dr. Harold Wesson’s work. It was also potentially deadly.
The needle slid into the IV. The plunger forcefully expelled the contents into the man’s bloodstream.
“Have the final solution ready,” Wesson advised. This was where early animal trials had gone wrong. The infectious material had proven to be too much for their immune systems to handle. He wanted to test his new theory on more animals, but the government agent had made his role clear.
The body began to twitch. Eyes rolled behind closed lids as the infection spread through the bloodstream and penetrated the blood-brain barrier.
The men in the viewing booth moved closer to the glass. This was the moment of truth. All roads had led to this juncture. For generations, men had emerged as soldiers who feared nothing. The Viking Berserkers. The Nazi Stormtroopers. All because of an infection: toxoplasmosis.
The man began to buck against his restraints. The leather creaked and groaned, threatening to give way.
Wesson motioned toward his assistant. “Administer the third solution.”
The syringe glinted in the harsh overhead lights. The chalky mixture swirled inside the glass vial. The assistant shook the concoction of hormones, antibiotics, and sedatives, making sure that each ingredient mixed with the others. A fourth syringe remained concealed in the Dr. Wesson’s pocket.
My ace in the hole, he thought. Something had told him that he couldn’t trust the men in the black suits. He wanted to see how things played out before he revealed his discovery. He’d wait to administer the Pyrimethamine solution until he was sure that he and his team would be safe. The test subject wouldn’t survive long without it.
The patient’s eyes snapped open. His pupils dilated, adjusting to the light. His left arm snapped free of the restraint. He reached to his mouth and tried to remove the ventilator tubes. He began to choke.
“I suggest you hurry,” Wesson advised. “His heartrate is spiking. His core temperature is rising.”
The needle pierced the IV line and deposited the liquid. The response was instantaneous. The man fell back to the table. His arms and legs went limp.
“Draw a sample and test it,” Wesson ordered, disgusted that he was proud of what he had created.
The tech drew a sample of the patient’s blood and headed toward the operating room doors. The armed guards blocked his path. One of the men removed the vile of blood from the assistant and deposited it in his pocket
“Was the process successful, Dr. Wesson?”
He turned to face his employers. “The Sekhmet Serum is viable, Agent Stafford.” He pulled down his mask.
“And the process can be duplicated?”
“There needs to be additional testing, but the procedure works. The long term effects are unforeseeable. This project needs to proceed with caution.”
Stafford looked to each of his associates. One by one, they nodded. “We disagree. Thank you for your contributions, Doctor. Your government appreciates it.” He motioned to the men below.
With no hesitation, they raised their rifles and fired. Blood splattered the sickly green walls. Bodies fell to the floor. Wesson toppled over next to the operating table. He closed his fist around the fourth syringe. The smells of blood and gunpowder mixed with the harsh chemical odors of the makeshift hospital. The morgue, Wesson thought.
His vision began to darken at the edges. He could feel his heartbeat slow. Shoes crunched broken glass and other debris that had been scattered by the gunfire. Lying in a pool of his own blood, he saw the agents enter the room and begin collecting his research. Two men wheeled the sedated patient away.
Agent Stafford entered the room and noticed the doctor watching him. He knelt by the doctor’s side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You weren’t meant to suffer.”
Wesson tried to reply but couldn’t form the words. You’ll never figure out how to make the process complete, he thought. He gripped the glass syringe in his pocket tighter. The vial shattered, slicing into the doctor’s hand. The Pyrimethamine mixture soaked into his lab coat. He could feel the cool liquid against his side.
Stafford pushed himself up to a standing position. “Why are you smiling Doctor Wesson?” When he received no reply, he pulled a pistol from inside his jacket and fired a single shot into the doctor’s head. A feeling of uncertainty nibbled at that back of his mind. He pushed the thought away. “Burn it,” he advised his men. “Burn it all.”