The Secret of the Ooze

By Kali Gargoyle

***

It was a long hallway, much too long if you asked the young man who was presently walking down it.

Jordan Perry pulled on his collar as he walked on guided by one of the scientists. The only sounds came from his own brand new loafers on the tile floor, the sharp taps from his guide's high heels, and his own nervous heart beat, which in his opinion, was the loudest. He was sure even his guide could hear it echoing off the walls.

Finally they stopped. Perry wondered how she knew this was the room, he couldn't see any signs or numbers anywhere. Perry watched her emotionless face as she pressed the code into the panel beside the door. She was rather attractive, although much too old for him and she didn't seem to be all that friendly.

The door opened with a swoosh sound and Perry gaped in amazement. He'd never seen anything like this in his entire life. The entire room was filled with the most remarkable technology, most of which he couldn't even recognize. It seemed almost alien.

"Wait here," his guide said in that same cold, professional tone she had greeted him with. Perry opened his mouth to assure her he would but she was already gone. He turned around and decided it wouldn't hurt to look around his surroundings, as long as he didn't touch anything.

He felt like a kid in a candy store, there was so many wondrous things that he had a very hard time keeping his hands to himself.

"Can I help you?"

Perry jumped a little and slowly turned around, afraid he'd gotten into trouble. He'd just been hired today, he didn't want to ruin his opportunity.

The man wasn't too much older than Perry was, perhaps in his late twenties, with neatly cropped red hair and piercing gray eyes. His eyes seemed odd, almost like they were glass, but looked organic as far as Perry could tell. Perhaps some sort of new implant…

"I said 'Can I help you?'" the man repeated, a bit harsher this time.

Perry gulped, feeling the sweat streak down from his forehead. "I… I'm Jordan Perry."

The man smiled, but it seemed unnatural to Perry for some reason. "Ah, yes, the new guy. I'm Antony Myers, another of Doctor Harper's assistants. Sherrie was supposed to be showing you around, wasn't she?"

"Well, yes, she was. She did. I think, I never caught the woman's name, but I'll assume that was her," Perry blabbered on. "She told me to wait here." He paused and pointed over to the door. "Actually, she told me to wait there."

Myers scratched his chin. "She must have gone to get Dr. Harper."

"Indeed she did."

Perry wished people would stop sneaking up on him like that. Sherrie, a lovely brunette whose glasses seemed to have a permanent glare, was walking over with an older man in a T.G.R.I. lab coat and glasses. He had a lightly wrinkled face and long salt-and-pepper hair tied back in a ponytail.

He grabbed Perry's hand with a professional smile. "So you're Jordan Perry? Welcome to the team, my boy! I'm Doctor Evan Harper."

Perry pulled his hand back and tried to massage some feeling back into it. "Thank you, sir. I'm honored to be here, although I didn't think I had the qualifications or experience."

Harper clapped Perry across the shoulder. "That's why you're here, boy, to learn."

***

And learn he did. He learned more about chemical reactions, the effects of radiation, and DNA mutations than he thought was out there. It was almost too much for the simple graduate student.

But nothing he had learned, either from work or schooling, would have prepared him for what was about to happen.

***

Lights. Alarms. Sirens.

Screaming.

All this bombarded Jordan Perry at once, giving his mind no opportunity to sort any of it out.

"Evacuate!"

"Someone get the lasers!"

"They aren't having any effect!"

Perry finally snapped out of his terrified trance and bolted for the door. Just as he reached it, a desk flew over his head and right through the door. Perry ducked to avoid the debris. He opened his eyes and tried to convince himself that he was dreaming. Nothing could possibly be that strong. Not strong enough to throw a bolted down metal desk through a locked metal door.

But the creature towering over him was very real, and no doubt was strong enough to do the damage in question. It stepped towards Perry, it's tail lashing out and knocking over a tray of chemicals, which splashed and shattered all over the floor.

Perry backed up against the wall. Most of the other workers were either gone or trapped and keeping their distance. Opposite of him, Sherrie Walters and Antony Myers stood with futuristic lasers aimed at the monster. They fired just seconds before its teeth reached the cowering Perry.

The creature backed away from the lasers, although they didn't seem to be doing much damage. It left through the smashed doorway and disappeared down the hall.

"After it!" Myers yelled, he and Walters running right past Perry.

Perry pulled himself up and checked himself over for injury. He frowned in the direction of the door. What exactly was that thing? And where did it come from?

Perry straightened his jacket. He knew exactly where.

***

Flashback:

Perry felt very out of place in this laboratory. Nothing around him was familiar. The chemicals were of course, but what they were doing with them… he couldn't even describe it. They'd been testing the effects of radiation on types of chemicals, but Perry had no idea what the goal was. And he was sure there was a goal. Doctor Harper got excited during some experiments, and upset during others, like he was looking for something specific. Perry wished he knew what it was, both to satisfy his curiosity and to also help find it.

"You're just the assistant," Doctor Harper had replied. "Assist, just do what I tell you to, boy!"

Boy. That title annoyed Perry to no end. Of course, he was much younger than the doctor, but Harper often said it with a hint of contempt, as if Perry was below him in every way, like the doctor thought he was so superior.

Perry just went back to watching the monitors. He didn't know why he was even bothering, they had computers set up to do it and alert them if the numbers left the perimeters specified. Perry didn't even know exactly what he was looking at. The type of radiation they had been using lately was unlike anything Perry had ever seen before.

Harper finally stopped the test and pulled his goggles up. "I think we've finally got it."

"Got what?" Perry asked.

"Exactly what we were looking for. Thank you Perry, you may take the rest of the day off."

Perry wanted to ask exactly what they were looking for, but the doctor went off to do something else. So Perry just shrugged and shuffled off to get ready to go home.

***

That had been nearly a week ago, and now Perry knew the results of those tests. He had had no idea what they were doing with that compound, but now he knew they had been testing it on animals. And that thing was the result of those tests.

"Perry!"

Doctor Harper jogged down the hall to where Perry stood. Perry hadn't even realized that he'd walked out into the hall.

"Perry, I'm so glad you're in one piece."

"Barely," Perry replied. "You know, we should have been warned that something like that was in this building!"

Harper didn't seem phased. "We have it under control."

"Had you mean."

"No, have. The creature has been taken care of. Now, I have a very important assignment for you." He handed Perry a clipboard and he snatched it away. He'd nearly been killed by a giant alligator and this man wanted to get back to work! Absurd!

"I thought we had something here, but these were not the results we wanted. We need to dispose of it as soon as possible. I want you to over see that."

A calm feeling washed over Perry. "Yes, of course sir."

Harper gave a surprised smiled and clapped Perry on the shoulder. "At a boy! Get to it, the truck's loaded."

Perry nodded and turned towards the garage. This would be perfect. Obviously, what they were doing here was not legal, and he had to tell someone. He would take the evidence and drive it right to the authorities. The place would be shut down and their experiments stopped immediately. Perry shuddered to think what else they had created in their pursuit of whatever it was they were looking for.

But when Perry got to the truck, he was forced to rethink his plan. It turned out that he was only going to supervise, and that another man was driving. Okay, he thought once they were on the road. We dump the stuff, then tomorrow I'll go and tell the authorities.

Perry was so involved in his thoughts that he was thrown completely off guard when something came smashing through the wall between the cab and the trailer.

Perry struggled in his seat to get away from the arm sticking through the wall. The dark arm grabbed the driver around the neck, causing him to swerve. The trucked skidded and they slid sideways awhile before flipping. The driver grabbed a tazer from his pocket and jammed it against the arm. It slithered back into the trailer and they heard pounding and more ripping from the back.

Perry shook his head. He looked out of the windshield and noticed that the landscape was tilted on its side. Strange. Then he realized that it was him that was on his side. Another down, his door was pinned against the street.

"Come on!"

Perry looked up at the driver, who was climbing up out of his door. Perry cringed, sure that he had injured something, as he climbed out. He took a second to survey the damage. There was no way that truck would be getting up anytime soon, they'd have to call and have T.G.R.I. sent out another truck. He hoped none of the canisters were broken, he could only imagine what that would do.

Perry's eyes widened at the sound of ripping metal. He never thought he'd hear the sound of something ripping metal, and it scared him. Two strong arms split the trailer nearly in two, what could that thing do to him?

The driver pulled out a laser and started blasting away at he beast. Perry grabbed him. "No, not at the truck, you could cause the whole thing to explode!"

The driver just shrugged him off and continued firing. "Come and get it, you Leatherhead!" The creature took a few hits then started dodging. Perry couldn't believe how huge it was, it seemed at least five times bigger than he was, and unbelievably fast. And the driver continued firing away at it.

Perry screamed as the monster took off the driver's head with one sweep of its powerful claws. Then the monster turned to him.

Perry froze on the ground. He knew there was nothing he could do. There was no way he could fight it, and it would catch him in a flash if he ran. He did the only thing he could. He begged, and hoped the creature had some sense of compassion.

The creature just stared at him for a few moments, then turned away. Perry was so relieved that he passed out.

***

Perry sat stiffly in the office chair. Three sets of eyes were on him, and they showed no mercy. They didn't really think it was his fault, did they?

"What happened Perry?" Harper asked.

"The creature attacked…"

"There was no creature."

Perry blinked. "Excuse me?"

Harper's face remained emotionless. "The truck swerved to avoid another car and flipped."

Perry couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Are you trying to cover this up? Why?"

"Because the human race is not ready to know of us, and that's what would surely happen if this was put forth to the public. If anyone ever asks you, you tell them that the truck swerved to avoid a car and flipped."

Perry took a deep breath. "I will not! The people deserve to know what you are doing here!"

"I'm afraid they're just not ready."

Perry jumped to his feet and slammed his hands down onto the desk. "And just who are you to decide?"

Harper slowly stood up. He removed his lab coat and began to unbutton his shirt. Perry fell back into his chair in shock.

There, sitting where Harper's stomach should have been was what looked like a brain. With a face! It had eyes and a mouth!

"This, is what we are, Perry. We are an alien race called Utroms. We are an advanced race, far ahead of humanity's capabilities."

Perry stuttered. "Utroms? Are… all of you…?"

Walters and Myers, both standing behind Harper, revealed themselves to be Utroms as well. Perry felt his head begin to spin.

"You see, several months ago, our ship crashed on this planet after it was damaged in a battle with another race called the Triceratons. Unfortunately, it was damaged beyond what we could repair, and this planet does not have the correct technology for us to repair our ship to return home."

Perry ran his fingers through his hair. "If you want to repair you ship, why all the focus on chemicals and radiation?"

"We find it very hard to fit in here, our species look very different. We were hoping to find something to help us… adapt to your society. These robot bodies are the best we could do on short notice. I'm afraid, though, that we will have to give up on the mutagen and concentrate more on repairing our ship."

"Yes, I suppose you should." Perry was silent for several seconds. "So, what of the accident? Was everything recovered?"

"Yes," Harper replied. Perry had already gotten use to looking at the Utrom instead of the robot's face. He wasn't sure if he should be worried about that. "We recovered most of the canisters, although our inventory shows that one did elude us, but I doubt it will cause any trouble."

"No trouble?!? If it can create a creature like… that!"

"If the canister is not broken, we do not have to worry, and we will retrieve it."

"What about, the driver?" Perry asked meekly. He tried washing the awful image of the man's head being torn off out of his mind.

"Oh, he is fine. His suit is horribly damaged, but can be repaired."

"Am… am I the only human here?" Perry asked.

"Yes," Antony replied.

"Why?"

Harper smiled. Or at least it seemed like a smile. "We thought you had potential. We needed a human here to take care of certain… things. I hope that our secret will stay just that, a secret."

Perry nodded. "What makes you think you can trust me?"

"It's a two way deal, Perry. You have to trust us as well. In exchange, you will have access to knowledge and technology far beyond anything else found on Earth. Every scientist's dream, to go where no man has gone before."

Perry had to smirk at the quote. It did sound tempting. "Alright, you have my word."