Author's Note: Dear Reader, thank you for taking the time to read this story. Constructive criticism is always welcomed and if you have questions, please feel free to message me.
Sweat stained sheets clung to her legs, their chill embrace sending goose bumps across her naked body. Tyler's hunched form shivered and she hugged her knees tighter to her chest, her bloodshot burning eyes staring at the darkened sheets at her feet. Her head felt like it was on fire, her body cramped and numb, frozen into painful apathy. She concentrated on the memories and the reason why she was here, doing her best to ignore the searing chemicals flowing through her bloodstream, stretching her, pulling her apart.
Sonya, she was here for her little sister Sonya and she wouldn't give up. Her sister, her happy, beautiful little sister, would be able to run and jump and play just like all the other kids. Tyler taught Sonya to be tough and stand up for herself. She hoped she'd taught her enough about guys, how stupid they were and how it was better to focus on school instead.
Stomach cramps ripped through her suddenly and she gritted her teeth to try and keep from moaning. But Tyler couldn't keep the tears from flowing. The chemicals were spreading from her veins into her muscles and organs, systematically warping her cells, down to the very fabric of her DNA. She refused to cry out like the others around her. Every once in a while someone would futilely plead with God or a doctor to make the pain stop. That wasn't going to happen anytime soon Tyler knew. All of them were being given the highest morphine doses possible. Anymore and it would kill them.
She tried to concentrate again on the happy memories of her life. Her mother getting her that stupid, pink, sparkly unicorn bike she'd always wanted, Sonya saying her name for the first time, camping with her Girl Scout troop… playing soccer… with her sisters…
The cramps hit her again with a vengeance. She fell to her side as a wave of dizziness and nauseous overcame her senses. Images from the war started surfacing. Bloodstained walls. The dead child with flies covering his body. The smell of burnt human flesh. Her friend's brains oozing out of his skull.
One of the dozens of monitors began shrilly beeping as she collapsed into unconsciousness. A futile escape from the pain she knew she had chosen.
'-, -|- \'-
A low moan issued from the woman on the other side of the one way glass, distracting Special Agent Harris from his thoughts. He glanced again her emaciated frame, every manner of tube, wire and needle piercing every major vein in her body. An A.I. monitored the patient at the cellular level, continually adjusting to fluctuations in temperature, electrical and chemical impulses and a host of other complicated functions he couldn't name.
Science had made mind boggling progress in the last twenty years, a race dominated by the titan companies Weyland and Yutani. This secret project was yet another power play in the bloodthirsty competition the two companies had waged over the long years. But this project was different, special, with monumental implications as impressed upon him by Weyland's president, Charles Weyland III. Secrecy was vital and making sure secrets were kept was his specialty. He scrolled through the patient's background information again, reaching absentmindedly for the cigarettes in his left pocket that were no longer there. He kept forgetting he'd kicked the habit several months ago. He chewed on his pen instead, another habit his wife would probably start complaining about too.
Alejandra "Tyler" Vasquez, he read. Marine Corps, served a few tours in the Second Korean War, working on her bachelor's, lived in Los Angeles, never married, five siblings, 12-year-old sister paralyzed…
He scrolled down.
Patient displays high levels of fitness and mental stability. Genetic compatibility rate: 32.012 – Low. Subject will be placed in sub-group A-TS67. Survival chances: Negligible. Inoperable brain tumor renders subject valid for second phase testing.
He glanced over at the woman approaching. She was petite, a head shorter than him, with a touch of gray at her temples. He couldn't tell her age but he guessed somewhere in the fifties.
"Dr. Chan, I presume?" he said, turning to shake her hand. She returned the greeting, more out of politeness than friendliness he perceived, and then held her hands behind her back.
"Yes. I understand you will preside over security at this facility." She stated it as a fact, rather than a question. Straight to the point this woman, he noted.
"Mr. Weyland said he trusts you." Now she was being vague. He frowned. Dr. Chan had been gazing at the patient the whole time.
"What did he tell you?"
"That the project was important, top secret… special," Harris replied. "Mr. Weyland said it was classified as a super soldier program, one of several such projects currently being researched and developed, to camouflage it. He told me it was… complicated."
Dr. Chan nodded and Agent Harris waited for her response which came after a lengthy moment of silence.
"The woman in front of us, you've read her file. She is the third test subject to make it Phase II of the process."
"Third? Where are the other two?" he asked.
"Dead," she stated without emotion. "We have four more entering Phase I as we speak."
"She doesn't look like she'll last much longer," he said, unconsciously chewing on his pen.
"Her body is expected to reject the infusions at any moment and shut down. We've accelerated the process, to see how much we can push her body before it shuts down."
"You make it sound like she's a machine."
Dr. Chan gave him a stern glance. "To an extent, the human body is a machine. An incredibly complex one."
Sacrificed in the name of Science, he thought. Harris decided to steer the conversation to something less controversial.
"I heard participants are offered substantial compensation if they agree to be test subjects," he said.
"Her sister will be given the ability to walk for the first time and her family will be well provided for, courtesy of the company."
Agent Harris raised his eyebrows and looked back at the woman again. Her flushed, thin, hairless frame looked nothing like the beautiful, athletic Latina in the data pad tucked beneath his shoulder. He admired her bravery. It would be a pity few would know of her sacrifice.
\'- \|/ ;|-
She blinked, staring at the white ceiling above her. At first, Tyler couldn't remember why she was here, or where here was. The pain reminded her. She sucked in deep breaths in an attempt to control it. She felt heavy, like there were weights inside her. The weight burned deep inside, like the molten core of the sun. Waves of heat pulsed across her numb skin.
"Tyler? Tyler, can you hear me?" a voice asked, shining a small light into eyes.
Tyler blinked and followed the light with her eyes. She managed a weak reply despite her throat feeling hoarse and swollen. Her mouth felt strange, like her jaw had come loose and her teeth had fallen out. Several doctors congregated in the corner, reviewing notes, talking in hushed, urgent tones. Nurses and technicians began to move rapidly around her, prepping machines and tools. This had happened only once before.
"I wanna… speak to the doctor…" she managed to croak to nurse nearest her.
The nurse nodded and scurried over to an older Asian woman, who nodded at the attendant and walked over to Tyler's bedside.
"Yes, Ms. Vasquez?"
"What is happening? What are they going… to do to me now?" she asked. Tyler hated how pathetic she sounded. Even with missiles screaming overhead and bullets whizzing inches from her body she'd held her ground, done what needed to be done. This was different. Torture was the only word she could find to describe her experiences. As a soldier she'd been taught endure physical harm by fortifying her mind's defenses in case she was taken captive. A broken mind killed a person quicker than a broken body in such circumstances.
"We are moving into Phase III. You will be unconscious for the next several days, during which the transformation process will be accelerated. No one has ever survived this far so we cannot predict what will happen," said the Asian woman matter-of-factly. Tyler could not remember her name.
"My sister? My family, are they…"
"They are well. Your sister's surgery is scheduled to take place soon, and yes, she will be able to walk. Now I must go Ms. Vasquez," she said in that professional veneer everyone seemed to wear in this place.
In the next moment Tyler's consciousness faded.
;|- '/, |/,
Rachel Chan pored over the data streams and DNA analyses for a third time, rubbing her eyes when they blurred in exhaustion. They felt swollen and puffy. Her back felt stiff and joints complained. Several other technicians worked with their assigned A.I. in monitoring the subject floating in the viscous liquid not 20 feet away. They were so close to succeeding, so close, and yet… the thought that something might go wrong plagued her, wouldn't let her get but a moments rest. Dr. Hardy would be in soon and would insist she get some rest before she collapsed, the well meaning bastard. He'd been looking out for her since they'd been friends in med school. Chan knew she was exhausted, but what they were doing was a miracle of biotechnology and she would witness as much of it as she could. The woman they'd placed in that tank was slowly being replaced by something other, something completely… alien.
Dr. Hardy's protests interrupted her thoughts.
"Chan, Dammit, I thought I told you to rest. The lab will still be hear when you wake up," he said, crossing his arms in exasperation.
"Jonathan, this is too important, I—"
"You need sleep. Doctor's orders," said the cheery Aarti Patel, one of the heads of microbiology, in her lilting Indian accent. "Jonathan and I can take things from here. Don't worry, we will call you the moment something happens."
Defeated, Chan sighed and shuffled to the doorway. Her sleeping pad wasn't far, just down this hallway. Sleep sounded great right now, she thought, as drowsiness started to claim her body. Rachel didn't remember opening the door or laying down, but suddenly she was being shaken awake.
"Jonathan," she groaned, rolling over, blindly searching for her glasses. "What is it? What happened?"
"Dr. Chan! Dr. Chan it's happening! The process is accelerating! It's incredible!"
Next Chapter: Blood