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Feeling safe probably wasn't in the charts. She sighed out. "I don't know whether or not catching Bellwether would make me feel safer. Last time we had them both and we lost hold of them regardless. They have friends in weird places," Sarah told Alphie. She wouldn't be surprised, after seeing the rat-transformation, if the dog was somehow a goat too. Just because it was affiliated with those two.
Hadn't they been freed by a dog in the first place? That white and brown-spotted animal? She'd seen on the cameras. Actually, now privy to the knowledge that they could take animals as hosts, it begged the question just how many were out there they hadn't even considered as a positive.
"Actually, I'm surprised he hasn't come to free Daniel yet," Sarah said. "He's been out of that tube for several weeks now, so you'd think now would be the time." Of course, some attempts had been made early on, but Sarah doubted Bellwether would come back for Daniel, sad as that was. She kind of felt gratified to know that the love Daniel was so certain of, could be shattered in an instant.
"In that sense, I'm glad we're moving Daniel. Maybe now things can turn back to normal," Sarah said. Whatever normal was for them.
She took a napkin and dabbed at her lips. "We should probably head back soon," she said. She had things to prepare.
A game-plan to work up for Daniel and several of her other 'patients'. Now that they had extracted some matter, she'd look into the perfect candidate to make a new hybrid. Daniel's powers had been impressive, so she hoped to be able to take that out of the monster and use it as a weapon.
It was boring. Daniel stared at the white wall and kicked it again for good measure. Fucking this room again. Mother-fuckers. He'd kill them all if he got the chance.
"Just give me one shot!" he shouted at no-one in particular, with a voice that was already almost gone. Daniel tried to sit up, but they'd hooked him up on the good stuff again. He wasn't entirely sure where or even when he was, but he knew he had to get out. Didn't even know why. Sometimes a man would come in to talk to him, but it was hard to hold a conversation. Hard to catch on to what was being said.
It'd been getting better. He laughed. Daniel didn't know why.
He'd never get better. He'd lost it all.
She was expecting another excuse, so it was a surprise when the long pause was ended with a yes, however she phrased it. Alphie beamed. Thank goodness. It was rough, being so isolated. She'd done it to herself, she knew that, but better isolated than dead. And better if she could enjoy herself, every now and again.
"Sure, sounds good," she agreed easily. Sarah could've suggested dumpster diving and she probably would've agreed with it. It'd be nice to just chat instead of constantly talking shop. Felt like ages since she'd had a proper human conversation about something that wasn't work.
The chill of early spring met them at the door. She shivered and pulled her coat closed. It was easy to forget what the weather was like when she was so immersed in her work. The rare trips to the supermarket for sundries had been short and quick. It seemed like just yesterday it was icy cold outside, grim and bleak with winter. "It is," she sighed, filling her lungs with the fresh, cold air. It was a bit chilly for her, but it felt good after so long in the same indoor temperature.
"How are you doing? I know it's been stressful lately. How're you holding up?" Alphie asked, just trying to start the conversation. The sandwich shop was a little walk from where they were, long enough to stretch her legs without being so long that it felt like a workout. "The dorms are horrible, you know. It's worse than college. Almost feels like a prison."
A prison of her own making, to some extent, but they'd found her too many times. She couldn't feel safe with Bellwether on the loose, even if there'd been no sign of him lately. After all, they'd thought he'd been done with the hunters the first time, too, and he and Daniel had found her at the school.
The line at the sandwich shop wasn't long. She ordered the day's special and some tea and found a seat to wait for it to come out. "I just wish we could catch him, so all of this could be over with," she complained, looking at Sarah. "So I can finally feel safe again."
Lunch? "I-..." Sarah hesitated. She had to take care of Daniel's paperwork still, make sure they started him off on the right blend of medication, but it was a lame excuse and could wait an hour or two. Alphie was just asking her because they used to be friendly like that. Sarah wasn't sure whether she could go back to that, but if she never tried, then she'd also lose a friend.
"I guess I can spare a few hours," she admitted at last.
If it was awkward, they might as well just agree that this would be the last time they'd venture down this path, but if it wasn't, then well. Maybe. Maybe there could be some kind of friendship. Sarah berated herself. For sure, she'd be loathing herself for her decision, for allowing herself this false hope.
And frankly, she was angry. She had more self-worth than Alphie seemed to suspect. Or was she really that emotionally detached that she didn't care?
"Let me get my things," Sarah started and put down the clip-board she'd been holding. "We can grab a sandwich at that place around the corner?"
Alphie could definitely use a few moments to stretch her legs, if she'd been staying in the dorms all that time.
It felt refreshing to finally be outside. The image of the infant taking a host still played out in her memory. It'd wasted no time at all; and the rat hadn't seemed afraid or anything else. A beep from her phone alerted her to the fact that Daniel was now safely in the care of the institution. She quickly replied she'd send over the details as soon as possible.
Nothing came in return.
Sarah tried a smile at Alphie.
"It's nice being out, isn't it?" A breeze tugged at her coat. It'd be warmer soon, she could practically smell it in the air. The fragile blooming of some early flowers, the buds on the trees. Soon this precious winter would come to a stop.
Sarah dug her hands deeply into her pocket and took in a deep breath. It was hard to imagine they were at constant threat of Bellwether and the monsters it sided with when it was like this. Maybe Alphie's fears were exaggerated. Bellwether would most likely move on.
Alphie nodded. It was a lab rat. Still odd. "Size, survivability, cognitive function, maybe some sort of personal preference," she muttered to herself. Could be anything. Maybe it wanted to make sure its host was a certain distance up the food chain. Maybe it needed the host to be a certain amount of intelligent, or mass. Too many variables. They'd need to single them out in the future. "I wonder if taking hosts is how they feed," she thought aloud. "We've never caught any trace of the grown ones feeding, after all, just taking hosts."
She frowned at that. "So the monster's extraction impacted his cognitive function?" Curious. Then did they feed on--but again, too many variables. The baby had been functioning like a hybrid. Maybe he'd suffered a brain injury that the baby had been compensating for, and without it, his brain had to reconnect those synapses on its own.
As a test subject, it was in their best interest to get him to fully recover, so that they could know for the future if this process was recoverable. Alphie couldn't help but wonder if it was in their best interest, though. A half-braindead Daniel was not a partner one could take on a raid on their base, nor would it be easy for Bellwether to hunt or fight when he had to protect a load of deadweight. It was a terrible thought to have, and yet, she found herself [i hoping], in some dark, twisted corner of her soul, that he never recovered.
"Hmm? Oh, yes. Yes. Who knows?" Alphie said. Which way would it go? "If Daniel's breaking out, it'll be a while." If Bell came to get him, though... well, he'd have to know it was a trap, right? Even if he rescued Daniel, he'd find himself with a hundred-and-a-half pounds of useless madman weighing him down. Chances were, they'd end up with both of them secured somewhere back on base in that case.
A smile touched her lips, a bit pained, but a smile nonetheless. "Any chance at that lunch?" she asked. Just once. For old times' sake. Even the little rat was having lunch with his mouse friend, so couldn't they grab lunch?
Live rats? Sarah walked over so she could see what was going on down below and observed the small originator's plight. Without saying a word, she took several notes; its limbs weren't as established, neither was its form. She drew a rough sketch and watched the consistency of the matter it was made up from. Rather than walk, it rolled. Notes appeared alongside the drawing.
The rat didn't seem startled.
"Is it a lab-rat?" Sarah asked. The rats they used for testing were all hand-tame, pretty much. Still, a hand the goat did not make and yet the animal wasn't afraid. And then things got interesting. Was it feeding? The way it enveloped the rat- but no. What happened after was even more curious than before.
"It's picked a host," she said, baffled. Why not the mouse? Had it been too small?
"Maybe the size," Sarah put in her two cents. Rats were considerably larger than mice. She turned her gaze. All that was left to see was an ordinary rat and like most hosts, it wouldn't know about its origin. Which meant it'd be relatively safe to return to the tube for further testing. Safe being a term she used loosely. With these monsters, safety could never be guaranteed.
"We managed to find a concoction to stabilize him; they're taking him away as we speak," she reported. "Still not the level of cognitive behaviour one would expect from a man, even a man with his mental condition," she said. "I'm sure that with time and the proper treatment he'll recover to a level before the parasitic agent."
He was slowly recovering, after all. Rather than screams, his protests turned to words. Rather than blindly struggle, the man had seemed aware of the restraints. Apparently whatever they were using to help Daniel was finally pulling the man's mind back into reality. Now all they needed to do was single out which agent was the effective one. A task they got to perform in the institute.
"I wonder... I wonder if Bellwether will come to find him or whether Daniel will venture out to escape, when the time comes." Either way it'd be an interesting development.
More white. It made him giggle and wrestle the restraints. A padded room. He'd recognized the pads from before. Fuck them.
His voice was hoarse from screaming. Fuck them and their little tricks. Just one chance. He needed just one shot at escaping to make it work. He'd get the goatling out and kill them all. Daniel kicked at the wall, then laid back. The moment of clarity had passed. The white had taken over again.
The door opened and shut behind her. Sarah. "Hey. We're just about to start on the rats," she said, with a nod at the room. A few live crickets bounced around the room, and a mouse was chewing on the oats. The monster had paused at the mouse's entry, but showed no interest in leaving its examination of the wall to eat. Not the oats, not fruit or meat, not the meal crickets or the live mouse, either. She was starting to suspect the creatures just didn't eat. "No luck, no."
No luck with the feeding, anyways, but on the other hand, the monster hadn't formed any kind of shell, either. It seemed like it needed something to be able to create a shell. Maybe it couldn't create, only copy. Or maybe the room was sufficiently shielded that it wouldn't degrade, so it had no incentive to create one. It was impossible to know for sure.
She leaned forward into the mic. "Test seven."
A rat dropped down from the ceiling and landed on top of the pile, startling the mouse. It ran off, chittering in fear.
The monster turned from its examination of the wall for the first time. It stepped closer to the rat, half rolling, half walking, and reached out a tendril towards the rat. Unafraid, the rat sniffed at the black material, nose twitching. Alphie held her breath. Was this it? At long last?
Black lashed out from the monster's body and wrapped around the rat. The rat struggled and kicked, screeching in a tiny voice, and then it was gone. There was just black. Then the black folded in on itself, changing shape, muscles squirming into place as fur sprouted. The rat was standing there once more, and the monster was gone.
"Well, shit," Alphie breathed. Hadn't been expecting that much. Then she leaned forward. "The cameras were running, right? We caught that?"
Acknowledgement from the other end. The rat had settled down to munch on the fruits, exactly the way a rat would eat. If she hadn't just seen it happen, she wouldn't have known it was a monster.
"Wonder what it was about the rat, and not the mouse," she muttered to herself, quickly jotting down notes on its behaviour. "How's Daniel, by the way, Sarah?" They'd been planning on moving him soon, right?
Maybe. She'd said maybe to Alphie and Sarah didn't even know why. After her harsh rejection, she should've just severed any ties to those feelings and moved on. A 'maybe' would just cultivate more false hope. She'd decided to move Daniel. Today was the day. Unlike before, they'd found a mixture that worked. The man was docile and pliable, just the way they wanted him to be.
"Good morning," she started. He still wore restraints, Sarah noted. She didn't ask the guards to take them off. What was the point? It'd just be dangerous and Daniel didn't seem with it enough to notice.
His eyes lifted. Those hazel orbs took in everything and nothing, it felt. Sarah wondered what he could actually see. She didn't expect a reply. He smiled, wanly. At least they got the man to sit up now. With some aid, they'd be able to have him walk and be relatively mobile. Under the guise of an alter ego, he'd be situated in a maximum security psychiatric institution, where he could get the treatment he needed.
Sarah wasn't sure she wanted the man to recover. Those two were trouble, though it was sad to see all the intelligence beaten clear out of the man's soul. All of which remained were those empty eyes.
With the sedatives, his outbursts seemed under control.
Sarah checked the list of opiates one more time and nodded at the men.
"Get him ready for transport. Is the van ready?" she asked.
A curt nod from one of the men.
Sarah observed as two of the guards manhandled Daniel into a stand. Turner was unsteady on his feet, balance off because of the restraints and his face betrayed utter confusion. She almost took pity on him. Almost.
"Take him away," Sarah said with a nod. She opened the doors for the men and they carried Daniel off, into a wheel-chair. He was uncooperative. The men were rough.
Sarah swallowed that caring side of her down. Daniel was a murderer. He deserved every minute of this.
Sarah flipped the paper on the clip-board and started to clean out the room. Finally she felt as if this chapter was over and done with. Without Daniel there, Bellwether would have no reason to come assault their base, other than to get the infant out. And they'd be prepared for it this time.
She clicked the door behind her gently.
"Hey, how are the experiments going?" Sarah gave away her presence. "Any luck?"
She shook her head at Sarah. "Be careful, alright?" The last thing she wanted to hear was about how the hunters had found Sarah's body in a crumpled heap on her living room floor. Bellwether could be vicious, and this time, he was surely out for blood. It was a miracle he hadn't threatened Sarah already.
As if they'd needed his consent at any step in the process. She should've put him in the facility sooner, or better yet, never have let him escape from the first one. Alphie sighed with regret. It'd been perfect. How had it all been able to come crashing down so quickly? Hopefully it wouldn't happen this time.
An appointment? Yeah, right. She looked away. It was stupid of her to think there could still be something like friendship. They'd never been friends in the first place, really. She'd been the only one deluded enough to think someone could want to be friends with her. "Yeah, alright," she said, false hope in her voice. "Maybe next time." There was no hope of a next time, she knew that. No point in trying. But she would anyways. It was lonely, staying in the dorms, always living in the company's arms. The hunters certainly didn't make the greatest friends. Most of them carried more emotional baggage than she did, and the rest were psychopaths. "See you around! C'mon, Goldy."
She retreated back to the lab, the dog padding along at her hip.
It took them a few days to get the experiment set up. The tube was moved to a blank white room, the walls ringed with magnetic bulbs. In the center was a hole from the ceiling where they could push stuff in, with several emergency locks in case it somehow managed to get out.
The tube hissed open, loosing the monster into the room. It sprinted out towards the wall, bounced off of one, then shook its head and gave the wall almost a curious look. A black hand-like appendage explored the invisible field an inch from the wall, tendrils palpating the surface.
"Test one," Alphie droned.
Oats were dropped in from the ceiling with a series of clunks. The monster didn't even twitch. It kept examining the surface before it, almost like a locksmith examining a particularly difficult lock. It was just her projection. The thing didn't know what it was doing, and any animal would examine a new cage.
"No reaction. Test two."
A clump of dead cockroaches joined the oats. Still no reaction.
Alphie sighed. It was going to be a long day.
A dog? The first thing Alphie thought to feed the infant was a live dog? She raised an eyebrow, but allowed Alphie’s brain to catch up to how ridiculous the suggestion was. First off; should they really be trying to feed the infant something it could use as a host? Boxing it up was a good idea though. Sarah stroked the dog’s fur as Alphie reached her own conclusions.
“No, no I’m not,” Sarah shook her head. She wasn’t living in the dorms. “I prefer… keeping things separated,” she admitted. That, and there’d be no escaping her feelings if she never left this place. Being able to just step out and take off the white coat, allowed her to return to normal, even if it was just for a short while.
“I mean… I can understand why you would. It was uncanny, how they found where you’d relocated,” Sarah said sympathetically.
Bait that’d be too effective?
They could always back out, if and when it turned out capturing Bellwether proved too dangerous. They had nothing to lose by trying either way. Sarah shrugged and stood up straight. The dog nuzzled her hand for more affection, but soon simmered down.
“I doubt he’d have let us. A shame we never found out how long he’s carried that infant around,” she muttered. They had estimates, but they’d never even dreamed of the monsters reproducing in quite this fashion.
The biggest question was; did it have to be human? The men had suggested a dog as a host and they’d seen that before, which meant the spread was greater than just humanity. Other species might be affected too. She wondered whether that was limited to only flesh-born creatures too. What if they could occupy trees and the likes?
“Yeah, it’d be something alright,” Sarah admitted.
They still didn’t know what they could do with an originator that wasn’t tainted by the outside world. Or perhaps it had been. Because it’d seen through Daniel what life could be like. Did that mean it’d have some kind of affiliation to Daniel still? They’d figured Bellwether’s originator would trigger a response, but Daniel was like its mother, in a way.
She started from her thoughts at Alphie’s proposal. Lunch?
They hadn’t had lunch in- ever since Daniel… She looked at the small window to the door that kept Daniel tightly locked up.
Even if he was crazy, he’d had a point. If there was anything of hope to cherish, Alphie wouldn’t have dismissed her as she had. Sarah shook her head.
“No. No, I-… I have another appointment, sorry,” she excused, not quite meeting Alphie’s eyes. She’d abandoned all hope. What was left, was them being colleagues. Nothing more, nothing less.
Alphie nodded. "Feed it what, though?" she asked. "We've got the dog, but..." She kind of liked the dog. Certainly didn't want to feed it to an originator. Ah-look at her getting attached. That was the whole reason the dog was here in the first place. "Well, we do have the dog," she finished a little lamely. "I don't know if it will eat in the gel, though--they don't seem to like it. Maybe if we boxed it up with the magnetic field and opened the tube..." It was worth a try.
She tilted her head as an idea came to her. "Or we could start small. Rats, mice. See if it will eat dead creatures, or how small it'll go. Yes... I'll have Patrick set it up. It's worth investigating."
Alphie snorted. "Worrying is an understatement. Are you living in the dorms now, too? I can't feel safe at home with him out there." [i Especially] since she was living on her own. [i Especially] since they'd targeted her last time. She wasn't one to quickly forget.
She shrugged. "I'm a bit worried the bait will be [i too] effective, if you know what I mean," she said. It'd draw Bellwether near, but did they really want that? The guy had, with Daniel's help, taken down whole bases before, and that was putting aside the originator. For now, they were locked in a stalemate. She wasn't sure breaking that balance was the best idea--though at the same time, she got the feeling that if they didn't break that balance, Bell would be the one to do it for them. "But I guess we can't cage Daniel forever. We're bleeding money on keeping him hooked up, and for no damn reason anymore."
"Mmm... probably," she acknowledged. It certainly hadn't come after its baby in its originator form, and if it had, she wasn't entirely certain they would've won. "Ugh! I wish we'd investigated Daniel sooner, Sarah. If we could figure out how they breed--mass produce originators--just imagine it!" She stretched her hands towards the ceiling. Nothing would be out of reach. It'd all be possible.
Then she dropped her hands and looked at Sarah. "How about lunch, for old times' sake?" she offered. It felt like she'd been slowly rebuilding their relationship, lately. Like maybe they could be friends again. She'd missed their lunches together. Maybe now was the time to heal old wounds.
Sure, the dog wanted to see her, of all things. Alphie really did make bad excuses. No, no. Sarah chastised herself. She wouldn't allow herself to think like that, wouldn't allow herself to get her hopes up and let their feelings get in the way of what they were trying to achieve. A small sample. That was good. Sarah nodded. Degradation was a genuine concern with a monster whose size was remarkably small for an originator. And it hadn't shown any signs of growing either.
She had ideas about that, but hadn't pitched them with lead yet.
"Perhaps we should feed it," Sarah offered. Like any create living on Earth, it was bound by matter. Within the tube, at least this was so. While it'd been attached to Daniel, it seemed to have fed through him. Perhaps this kind of symbiosis was what allowed it to consume new matter into itself and assimilate said matter into more of the black mass.
Though perhaps adulthood came with the ability to sustain that process independently. Certainly, the bigger originators would have considerably more than one face to hide behind.
Alphie's nearness started her.
"No... no, we haven't heard a thing. Which is worrying, right?" Sarah confessed. If their men could've found him, they would've. That inability to actually hunt Bellwether from wherever it hid, gave rise to new theories regarding the treatment they'd suffered at the hands of Bellwether's originator.
"Perhaps we should institutionalize Daniel. If we want him to act as bait, Bellwether would potentially be able to find him that way," she offered with a sigh. It meant keeping watch over an insane man outside the facility.
"They'll never approve your plan. You know what happened last time and while it would be good to dismiss the effect Daniel's presence has on Bellwether's originator, it will most likely be a very destructive procedure regardless."
Sarah toyed with the dog's hair and sighed out.
"If it did, however, don't you think it would've tried harder?" She said the words softly. Even if these monsters had some type of parental instinct, it wouldn't be as strong as to die themselves. No animal would go through those lengths to protect an already fragile existence. It was simply too risky. And they still knew nothing of the ease with which these monsters reproduced. If this infant was one of many, it's presence would be marginally trivial.
She smiled, watching Sarah and Goldy interact. "She wanted to see you," she excused the dog's presence. Daniel had made some progress. She nodded, taking a mental note down. If he was recovering, that was more hope for her proposed next step; then there was absolutely no downside to harboring an originator. And that was even assuming they needed humans to parasitize until birth. Maybe any old animal would do.
"Small one," she reported on the sample, holding up her fingers close together to show how much. "We're too worried about degradation to take too much. Hopefully it'll help us discover more about their developmental process... this is the first time we've had a newborn one, after all." The more they learned about their lifecycle, the closer she got to her dream. "I wonder if they all start so small. It's tiny, you know? Like a cat. Almost makes you feel protective." She laughed at that; the creatures didn't need any human pity. Even the tiny one could kill her in an instant with absolutely no effort.
"Have there been any reports of the other one lately?" she asked, gesturing outside the base. She'd taken to living in the dorms; she didn't feel safe anywhere else with Bellwether out there. They hadn't managed to catch him when they'd taken in Daniel; he hadn't been able to fight off a half-dozen hunters on his own, but he'd made a decent effort. After that, there'd been a few raid attempts, all of which they'd rebuffed, but even those had ended a few months back. Since then, there'd been no sign of him.
Some of the hunters had money down that he'd died, but the smart money was on him giving up. Alphie didn't believe any of it. These men would go to any lengths to get what they wanted. He had a plan, something, and she wasn't about to be part of it. Not this time.
She reached out and tucked Sarah's hair back from where it'd strayed over her shoulder. "What are we going to do with Daniel long-term?" she asked. "Keep him comatose forever? I still think we should trap Bell with it. If we get the child and the originator together, who knows what will happen?" She'd love to see whether they had any sort of parental urges--though at the same time, that could be dangerous. Bellwether's originator had proven dangerous before; if it felt some kind of protective instinct, moving them close together might not be survivable.
A hand struggled against the restraints. Instinctively, Sarah backed off, assuring Daniel couldn't reach any part of her. The tests showed he was human, but with the monsters they were dealing with, that certainly was no guarantee for safety. If there was any part of the new-born left behind in Daniel, it would be extremely hard to detect. Any minor fluctuation might point to there being something and with the first weeks out of the tube being what they were for Daniel, Sarah just didn't know.
"I can't let you out, Daniel, I'm sorry," she said softly, checking the monitors displaying his vitals.
It'd been hard, giving Daniel the physical therapy he needed. They couldn't keep him strapped down forever. Or sedated, for that matter. The current mix they had him on seemed to be fairly efficient at what it did; kept him nice and docile, yet aware enough to communicate.
Daniel's eyes were already drifting again. Gone was the desire to get out of the room. She sighed.
It was a small sacrifice to make, for the results they had gathered. Sarah knew that. They'd made great strides just observing and recording the small monster and its growth.
Realizing she was finished, Sarah exited the room and softly closed the door behind. As if triggered by that, Daniel started one of his fits again. With force enough to bring down an adult horse, he fought against the restraints. Sarah thanked whoever had invented padding, because most of the noise was contained within the room.
He screamed sometimes. As if he was in a great deal of pain.
They were still discussing whether these symptoms were a result of an already fragile mind breaking or whether they were somehow linked to the monsters.
She looked up at the patter of dog-paws.
"What are you doing here?" Sarah greeted the mutt softly. "You know you're not supposed to be here," she said playfully, ruffling the animal's fur.
Sarah looked up, then away.
"Hey," she started. "There's nothing new to report. Well. He spoke today. It seemed to be less random and more cognitively aware anyway," Sarah reported. "How is the originator?" It was a daily routine. Things had been stabilizing and soon they'd have to figure out what the next steps would be.
"Did you manage to extract a sample?"
Whether it was the gel or some other inability on the new originator's part, it never formed a shell. Neither had it grown larger. Alphie had been fully prepared to transfer it as it grew, but it simply hadn't. Ordinary originators, the kind they caught in the field, needed huge, custom tubes to be properly contained. This one never get larger than the small human-sized tube they'd stored Daniel in. And even then, it floated in it like a sad, abandoned cat, not even the size of a human. It wasn't degrading, but she did worry that, with so little mass, degradation would happen rapidly when it set in.
There were always trade-offs. She watched as they procured a tiny amount of material from the new originator for study, barely enough to fill a thimble. They hadn't tried creating new hybrids yet, and there was no need for treatment material after whatever Bellwether's originator had done. Rather, she wanted to break through the secrets of how it had come to be. If they could mass produce originators, then the world was their oyster. Forget fighting the monsters; they could start mass-producing hybridization material. They could revolutionize the medical field, technology, war, it was all in their hands--if only she could figure out how to breed them on demand.
Of course, they'd have to deal with the human issue, but there'd be volunteers. And if not, why not use the bodies of people in comas? It wasn't like they were using their bodies for anything--but she was getting ahead of herself. They still hadn't figured out how to breed them, so that was all future troubles.
The dog sniffed at her ankles, then looked up at her and wagged its tail. "Yes, yes, good girl," she said, patting its head. It'd become the lab's unofficial mascot after she'd insisted on keeping it around just in case the originator needed a shell to parasitize. So far, it'd seemed healthy enough without it, but it was too soon to be sure.
"Let's go check on Sarah," she suggested. See how Daniel was doing. Aside from his mental health, he'd made a full recovery--and even then, how much of that was caused from separation from the originator, and how much was already broken in his schizophrenic brain? Breeding them was viable. She just had to figure out how.
Fractured. Daniel saw flashes of white, then bright lights, then people. Humans with indiscernible faces, smells he couldn't place, a burning writhing across his skin. Hands plied him whichever way they wanted to, black hands, slender and a perfect warmth. Nothing was familiar. He had nothing to hold on to. Everything was merely floating in mid-air, in a void. No, there was something, but he just couldn't reach for it. It was constantly out of reach, too far. Everything felt too far.
He couldn't focus. Couldn't even form words, failed to hold on to a single thought long enough for it to be productive.
He fought it all, relying on an uncontrollable anger. Sometimes there'd be a flash of something. The sound of cogs. A hold. But most of the time there was only pain. Pin-pricks in the darkness, puncturing skin and awareness.
The first thing he was consciously aware of was the fact that there was a door. It wasn't an ordinary door, which may have contributed to his lack of understanding for such a long time. There was no handle on the inside, for one, and a small, rectangular window was letting in light from outside.
When it opened, there would be more light, which also brought along boundless confusion.
She'd hoped they would assign Daniel to someone else's care, but because she'd insisted on being on the programme with Alphie, it fell on her to provide after-care. Six months she'd watched Daniel's vitals, kept them stable and made sure the man had everything necessary to survive the journey. Her reward was a mentally broken man.
He was tied to a gurney for the purpose of the treatment. So far he hadn't responded to any of the medicine they'd tried -including the ones on the recipe order signed to Turner's name. Perhaps the extraction process had caused some irreparable brain-damage.
He was awake this time.
Unfocussed hazel eyes stared at the white ceiling without reacting. Not even when the needle punctured his skin. It'd been like this for several weeks now after the extraction. If it kept up, she'd advise having him admitted to long-term care elsewhere. There was no need to keep him around. The first few weeks had been interesting. Especially witnessing Turner's body adjusting to life without the monster's contamination had been of notable interest. After that, Sarah had to conclude he was merely human now.
Mortal and fragile, like the rest of them.
Daniel's eyes drifted, sought and found something. He didn't even recognize what he was seeing.
"...out," he heard a hoarse voice whisper. "Want out."
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