June 27, 1968
"Sir, I'm afraid it's no use." The man's voice held a note of frustration mixed with worry. "I've tried."
"Try it again."
"Mr. Trask, I've tried every type of needle known to mankind. The child's skin is impervious."
The man gestured to a steel side table filled with hypodermic needles. The metal ends were bent into a vast array of odd angles. Every single one was damaged. Every one still held various liquids within their chambers, ready to be dispensed. Cameron took it all in at a glance.
"Look here. I'll show you," the man pressed.
The man picked up another needle from a different table. It was one of a remaining three needles that were undamaged. He stuck the tip into a vial of clear liquid, drew back the plunger, and carefully filled it. Then he tapped out the air bubbles before moving back to the two year old sitting in front of him. The man silently brought the needle to the child's arm and pressed it firmly against his skin. The needle buckled and bent to the left, not breaking through even a single layer of the alien's skin. For his part, the child took no notice, and happily chewed his fingers.
The child was known as Specimen S in the compound, for the sigil that had been emblazoned on the baby blanket he'd been wrapped in when he'd crashed landed on Earth. And so far, S, as they referred to him for short, was developing just as Tempus had told Cameron he would. In every way, he appeared to be a typical two year old child. He hit all of the same milestones on time, no different than Cameron's son, Jason, had once done. S crawled when he was supposed to, said his first word when he was supposed to, took his first uncertain steps when he was supposed to. Only his aura of invulnerability set S apart from other, normal little boys and girls.
"See?" the man asked, setting the needle aside with a sigh.
"Yes, I see," Cameron said, stroking his chin in thought. "Jenson, try putting a needle through his diaper."
"Do it," Cameron coaxed. "I want to see something."
Steve Jenson hesitantly prepped another needle, then attempted to puncture the thin diaper the child wore. As before, the needle bent upon impact.
"Interesting," Cameron said. "His aura is already stronger than Tempus made it out to be."
He paused for a moment, then reached beneath his shirt. He drew out a thick, stylish silver chain. Adorning the bottom, a small cylindrical tube hung, one made of lead. Carefully, Cameron unscrewed the tube from the top, revealing a shard of glowing green Kryptonite. Across the room, the baby wailed, a high-pitched scream of pain. A look of alarm flickered over Jenson's features, though he did not understand exactly what was going on.
"Try it now," Cameron said, raising his voice over the child's screech.
"Sir? What? I don't understand," Jenson said.
"Do it," Cameron commanded. "Now."
Jenson nervously nodded his head and prepped the final needle. His shoulders were slumped in defeat, knowing he'd never change his boss' mind, and fully anticipating another busted hypodermic needle. Yet, to Jenson's infinite surprise, the needle easily slipped into the baby's flesh this time. S let out another pained scream as the metal pricked him, and fat tears rolled down his chubby cheeks.
"Ssh!" Jenson tried to soothe him. "There, there. It's not so bad."
He quickly pushed the plunger down, administering the harmless placebo. He withdrew the needle immediately, and a round red drop of S' blood welled up on his skin.
"See, all done," Jenson cooed at the baby.
Cameron chuckled from his place on the other side of the room. He swiftly recapped the Kryptonite, shielding it away where it could do no more harm to the child. After all, he wasn't sure how long the baby could be exposed to it without it killing him. And that was something he was unwilling to risk. He needed the child to live; he'd invested too much in S already. Immediately, S' cries changed. No longer were they shrieks of agony. Now they became only the whimpering cries of a frightened child in desperate need of comforting.
"Very interesting," Cameron said, smirking to himself and tapping the lead tube affectionately with one finger. "Excellent."
Steve Jenson picked the boy up and lightly rubbed his back, hoping to impart some comfort to him. S continued to cry, his tears wetting the man's shoulder. Jenson gently began to sway, hoping the movement would pacify the baby.
"Sir, if I may ask...? What was that?"
"Nothing you need to concern yourself with."
"No!" Cameron snapped at him. "It isn't healthy for a man to stick his nose in where it doesn't belong."
"Yes...of course," Jenson said, well aware of the threat in Cameron's voice and words.
Cameron eyed him coldly for a long moment. "Good," he finally said.
In Jenson's arms, S was finally starting to settle back down. His cries tapered off and he began to hiccup. Jenson lightly patted the boy's back, though it was almost purely an unconscious effort. He wasn't really thinking about what he was doing. He was just acting. Though, he had to admit to himself, he felt a stab of pity for the boy. And fear. Jenson wasn't sure what his boss was up to, but it bothered him to see the man acting so callously toward a helpless two year old.
And yet, Jenson wasn't stupid enough to say anything. Cameron had a violent temper sometimes, ever since he'd been kicked out of the military. Jenson was almost positive that Cameron wouldn't actually harm or kill him, but he wasn't willing to bet his life on that. And besides, if Jenson said anything, it was certain that his boss would terminate his employment. Jenson didn't want that either. He'd been waiting his whole life for an opportunity like this - an opportunity to study an alien life-form up close and personally. He wasn't about to do anything to throw away an opportunity like this one.
"So...what now?" Jenson asked carefully, shifting S on his hip.
"We proceed with Phase Two."
"Phase Two?" Jenson echoed. He frowned. "What's that?"
"More testing," Cameron said, shrugging as though it were the most obvious thing in all the world.
"More testing how?" Jenson echoed once more.
"Everything," Cameron replied evenly. "We test every disease known to mankind. We test every weapon known to mankind. We see what S can and cannot handle."
"But sir," Jenson said, paling slightly. "Tempus said..."
"I know what Tempus said," Cameron replied angrily. "But only an idiot believes something one hundred percent without checking things himself. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, perfectly so."
October 25, 1970
"How's it going there, Jenson?"
"Good," Steve Jenson replied, finishing his examination of four year old S. "Just a minute, please." He took a final listen to the child's heart, nodded, then draped the stethoscope around his neck once more. "Okay, S. All done."
"Can I have a pop?" the child inquired. "Please?"
Jenson chuckled and reached into the clear canister that stood on the countertop of his small medical office. He fished out a cherry flavored lollipop, unwrapped it, and gave it to the boy. S happily popped the treat into his mouth and sucked on it silently. But his wide, brown eyes never left the two adults.
Cameron leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. "Well?"
Jenson sighed. "Well, I think we've tested most of the major viruses and germs. He seems immune to everything. Even when we've tested him against the same things with that green rock of yours, the results have been the same. It's as if Earth viruses simply aren't compatible with his biology. They don't have the power to affect him. For the most part, it seems like his body works the same as yours and mine. He eats, he sleeps, he has a pulse and a heartbeat, he bleeds if hurt when exposed to that rock."
"I already know this," Cameron said, tapping his toe impatiently. "Tell me something I don't know yet."
"Well," Jenson said, fidgeting in his chair a little. "We finally got the x-ray machine over the weekend, while you were away."
Cameron perked up a little at that. "And?" he asked eagerly.
Jenson shook his head. He handed his boss a manila folder with the images the machine had taken. Cameron flipped on the lighted board on the wall and held each image up to it. Every single one was a solid mass. He could see nothing. No organs. No bones. Nothing.
"What the hell is this?" he demanded, flinging the x-rays back at Steve Jenson.
The photos flew in all directions. One landed in Jenson's lap. The rest fluttered to the floor. S watched it all, silently tracking the images with his eyes. But he did not move, other than to continue to work at the lollipop Jenson had given him. Even that young, he knew enough to fear Cameron.
"Mr. Trask, please..."
"Don't give me excuses, Jenson! I went through hell to get that machine. And you present me with this rubbish?"
"I know what it looks like," Jenson said, trying to appease the ex-Sergeant-Major.
"It looks like useless garbage," Cameron retorted.
"I know," Jenson said again, nodding. "But...those scans...they tell me something about this child. His molecular make-up isn't like ours. He's denser then we are. Which is why we can't see anything in the scans."
Cameron sighed. "That doesn't do us much good."
"Maybe not. But it puts us a little closer to understanding how different he is from us."
Cameron thought about this for a moment, then slowly nodded. "Proceed to Phase Three."
January 12, 1971
The sound of gunfire blotted all other noise out. S flinched at every shot, the sound reverberating in his ears. He felt the bullets as they hit him, one after another, as the expert marksmen fired at him. But they didn't hurt him. In fact, they bounced right off his skin. But he was afraid nonetheless. He didn't understand what was going on. He didn't understand the loud noises, or why they were being directed at him. He didn't understand the sharp stench of the gunpowder or the flashes of light and fire that exploded out from the barrels of the weapons.
He looked down at the spent rounds that lay pooled around his feet. They were high enough to bury his toes and kiss his ankles. A vast array of bullet sizes and shapes were mixed in that small ocean around him. He didn't understand that either. Why were these people using so many different things against him? And why had they chained him in place? To his almost five year old brain, nothing about the situation made any sense.
He knew, even at that young age, that Cameron disliked him. He also knew that Cameron could hurt him, and hurt him very badly. S was terrified of the green stone Cameron sometimes produced. It made his entire body scream in agony. It made him so weak that he could barely stand. And somehow, S knew, child though he was, that it could kill him.
He closed his eyes as another hailstorm of bullets peppered his bare chest, though it was not because he was afraid of the projectiles. He was afraid of the people standing on the opposite side of the room, each in their own little compartment. Each face was grim. None held any compassion for S, or showed any worry or remorse over what was happening.
S opened his eyes once more as the guns were silenced and the marksmen reloaded their weapons. S watched as Cameron strode into the room. The marksmen held their fire, respectful of the man in charge. Cameron went to one of the men and whispered something in the man's ear. S could see Trask's mouth moving, but he could hear nothing. However, the man with the gun nodded in silent understanding. Trask stepped back, his hand moving to the chain around his neck.
S gulped in renewed fear. He knew what the gesture meant. The green rock was coming out. In another second, he would feel its effects on his body. S tried to squirm his way away, tried to put as much distance between his body and Trask as he could. But the chains were strong and short. S couldn't move more than an inch or two.
"Wait for my signal," Trask cautioned the shooter.
In the next instant, S felt the Kryptonite as it began to ravage his body. He fell to his knees, scraping them on the rough concrete floor. He cried out, but no one came to his aid. No one said a comforting word.
"Now," Trask said.
The gunman nodded once in acknowledgement, though S didn't see it. The man squeezed the trigger, and a bullet whizzed by S, expertly placed. It grazed the top of his left shoulder. S screamed as his flesh tore open and his blood began to gush from the wound. Fat tears leaked from his eyes, from the excruciating pain and the immense terror that now gripped him.
"Excellent," he heard Cameron say.
A minute later, S felt the Kryptonite vanish. He felt his flesh begin to knit back together as the wound on his shoulder closed. Jenson was at his side in the next second, inspecting the place where the bullet had injured S. But there was no injury to be seen. The skin was unbroken, unblemished, as if the wound had simply never existed.
"I'm sorry, S," Jenson said in a whisper. "I didn't know."
S could only nod his head slightly, now more afraid than ever before.
July 28, 1976
"That's it. Keep going," Jenson encouraged.
"How...much...further?" S puffed out between breaths.
Ten year old S was running on a treadmill. Various electrodes and wires sprouted from his body, monitoring his vital signs. The machine was going at a fairly fast pace, having been modified to reach up to one hundred miles per hour. S was cruising along at about forty miles per hour, Jenson could see. And yet, the boy barely seemed to be struggling. He was breathing only slightly heavier than normal, and his pulse was holding steady. He wasn't even sweating.
It unnerved Jenson.
Once again, it hammered home the fact that S was an alien. Though he looked and sounded like a regular kid, he was not of the Earth. He was not human. It was a fact Jenson sometimes found himself forgetting.
He'd worked so closely with S for most of the child's life. He'd grown attached to the helpless baby S had once been. He still had a special place in his heart for the boy, though he kept his feelings tamped down where Cameron could not see. If Trask suspected Jenson's feelings, chances were great that he'd pull the man from his duties. He might even kill him, rather than simply terminate his involvement with the ragtag group of rogue scientists who called themselves Bureau Thirty-Nine.
But Jenson couldn't shake the fondness he had for the alien child. He could not force himself to view the boy as merely a science project or laboratory animal, the way everyone else did. Instead, he tried to be as gentle to the boy as he could, when no one was looking. He'd slip the boy a cookie when he could, or give him an easy day when they would go through the rigorous medical testing they routinely did. As a result, S had developed a tenuous trust in the man, and he rarely ever fought against Jenson's requests.
"Let's do another twenty miles," Jenson replied. "Then we'll call it a day."
"Okay," the boy said, sighing resignedly.
S continued to run, never faltering in his steps. He didn't need to slow down, didn't need to rest. He didn't need to sip from the water bottle which stood at the ready for him, just in case. It never ceased to amaze Jenson, to see just what S could accomplish. He wondered what other abilities the boy might exhibit in the future. Cameron had hinted at powers to come, but he hadn't divulged just what they might be. Jenson secretly thought that he was seeing only the tip of the iceberg when it came to S' abilities. The thoughts and questions sometimes kept him up at night, truth be told.
How fast would S become? Would he ever be able to outrun a train, for example? Cameron was worried about how strong the boy would grow to become. Would he be able to lift a car with his bare hands? Would he possess the ability to bend steel? Jenson knew that his boss was working - slaving really - over plans to build a more secure cell for S, one he would not be able to break free of once his strength began to manifest. Jenson wondered when that would be. S was lean and muscular by nature, never possessing the "baby fat" the scientist had observed on every other young child he'd ever come across, at least, not past the age of three. He also wondered what other surprises S might have in store for them. Would he be able to control the elements? Would he gain the ability to shape-shift?
The fact was, Jenson was in the dark as to what he should anticipate. And that didn't sit well with him at all.
Soon enough, S finished the remaining miles. Jenson flicked a switch, and the treadmill slowed. S hopped down from the deck before it could wind down to a complete stop. He looked expectantly at Jenson.
"Very good," Jenson said, nodding. "Good work today."
"Thank you," the boy said, casting his eyes downward.
S knew what would come next. It was time for his daily lessons. For the rest of the day, he would sit with Cameron. Trask personally oversaw the child's education. No one but Trask and S were privy to what, exactly, those lessons consisted of. Cameron refused to speak of it, and had threatened Jenson the one time he'd had enough nerve to ask. And S grew afraid anytime Cameron's name was mentioned, clamming up immediately if the man was brought up in conversation.
Jenson sighed inwardly, but S had already moved away, obediently heading to the small, private room where his lessons took place.
For the next five hours, Cameron drilled S on the information he wanted the child to know. Had S known any better, he would have called the lessons brainwashing attempts, not an education. Oh, it was true that Cameron did teach the boy some things. S could recite the names of every major city in the world, what countries they were in, and who was in charge. He could accurately point out every type of military equipment from a series of photographs. He could easily figure out the longitude and latitude of any place Cameron could possibly mention.
None of the information that Cameron fed S was hard for the child to learn. He had only to see or hear it once, and the information imbedded itself into his memory. It became an indelible part of his limited knowledge. And yet, S had the nagging feeling that Cameron was withholding information from him, even at that young age. He'd witnessed Cameron count off items from separate piles and come up with a new amount. S just couldn't figure out how Cameron did it. He'd asked once. The question had enraged Trask, and he'd forced S to endure the harmful effects of the green stone for the better part of an hour.
S had never questioned Cameron again after that incident. He wisely held his tongue, bit back any questions he had, and submitted to doing only what Trask asked of him, when it was asked of him. He became as compliant as possible. But alone in his cell at night, S often wept bitterly and wondered what lay beyond the walls of the compound that made up his home - the only home he'd ever known.
He looked forward to the times when he was allowed a rest from his labors. If Cameron was feeling generous, S would be allowed short periods of time outdoors. S reveled in the sunlight during those hours. Perhaps he was imagining it, but it felt to him like he became stronger, more alive in the gentle caress of the sun. It was almost like the warm rays fed his body. It made S all the more miserable on the days he was stuck indoors.
He never complained however. Not to anyone. Not even to Jenson, who had always treated him as gently as possible. And certainly not to Trask. S feared the man. He feared the shard of green stone the man forever had hanging about his neck, ready to pull out and use to punish S at the drop of a hat. Instead, S chose to suffer in silence, dutifully playing the part Cameron wanted of him. To do so, S tried to harden his heart. He knew Cameron wanted him to be able to hurt and kill people, once he grew older and stronger. Who they were, S didn't know. They were simply "the enemy." But S had the impression that "the enemy" was anyone who wasn't Bureau Thirty-Nine.
Try as he might, S found it impossible to force himself to become the cold-hearted killer Cameron wanted him to become. He found such delight in the small things - a bird flying overhead when he was outdoors, a butterfly landing on his nose, the sweet perfume of the flowers that grew in the rough landscape where the compound was located. He couldn't understand why Trask wanted him to destroy so many wonderful, fascinating things.
The more S thought about it, the more it kept him awake at night. The more it flooded his young body with terror for what the future held. He didn't want to kill. He didn't want to destroy. He simply wanted to live his life.