Summit Six-12 Press
Publish Date: 10/13/2017
Dr. Hoc Chen nearly dropped the blood sample in his hands when he heard the harrowing scream echo from the hallway. The research and medical lab, where he and four other top scientists in microbiology were gathered, had been fairly quiet, which allowed them all to work in a sort of peace. The screams made Hoc’s muscles stiffen, and he gripped the small vial of blood so tight he thought it might shatter, contaminating him with the lethal virus. His brain flooded with horrific possibilities of what was happening outside the steel door.
“What’s going on out there?” He thought. Or, had he said it out loud? Just hours earlier, he’d arrived in what was supposed to be paradise. A beautiful island in the pacific so frequently trafficked by thousands of tourists, was the perfect place for the government funded lab. Hidden in plain sight and disguised as a cancer research clinic. All those tourists and, even the locals, had no idea that this small lab contained a collection of the world’s deadliest viruses and antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. No one seemed to notice the team of around the clock armed guards, because they were dressed like civilians, weapons concealed.
Are we under attack from terrorists? Hoc wondered. Was someone coming to claim the research and samples to inflict all manner of biological warfare?
Another scream sounded from right outside the steel door. This was a scream of not just fear, but desperation.
The heavy sound of boots grew louder. Hoc glanced around the room at the other scientists, and each one returned the same terrified and confused glance that he must have had on his own face, except for Dr. Robert Nake. He knew Robert well; they’d been friends throughout their Masters and Doctorate programs, and had worked together several times in severe cases of viral outbreaks around the world. Robert’s face didn’t reveal much emotion, he was completely calm, and was that a hint of a smile?
The steel door swung open and two soldiers dressed in camouflage, stormed into the room, their rifles at the ready. Behind them, two more of their brethren followed, dragging a petrified, homeless-looking Polynesian man. He was shrieking as hard as he could, but his voice had almost dried out. The thin man desperately struggled against the soldiers grasp, but to no avail. His breath came in deep gasps between screams, his eyes revealed his fatigue, but he didn’t stop resisting.
“What the hell is going on?” Hoc demanded, sounding much braver than he felt, especially with guns aimed forward at him and his colleagues.
The rifle parade ended with a finely dressed man in a white linen suit, his silver hair was combed so perfect, it looked plastic. He was tall, poised, and clearly in command.
Hoc thought he recognized the man, but as if it were on the tip of his brain he couldn’t remember his name, or where he had seen him.
“Welcome,” Robert said with a certain twisted smile that sent a shiver through Hoc’s entire body. “Stop looking so worried, my friend,” he said turning to Hoc, “This is exciting. You’ll get to see first-hand what we’ve done with your research.”
“So this is the infamous Hoc Chen.” The Suit said with a smirk that revealed his brilliantly white teeth. He stepped forward and held his hand out to Hoc as if he expected a warm greeting.
Hoc didn’t move. “I’m confused,” he muttered. “What’s going on? And what are you doing with that poor man?”
“Robert just told you,” he said. “You get a front row seat to what will be your crowning achievement. In fact,” he paused in speaking and sauntered up to each one of the scientists, looking them in the eye, “I’d like to personally thank all of you for your years of tireless work. You have all been categorically instrumental in changing this world forever.” He smiled wide and clapped his hands together three times in a one-man applause.
The scientists offered narrow smiles in nervous appreciation. Hoc met the eyes of the female scientist, the youngest of the group. She immediately looked away, as if shamed. Did they all know what was going on? Are they all keeping secrets from me?
The Suit’s electric blue eyes locked on Hoc’s. “Tie the prisoner to a chair,” he commanded. His gaze didn’t leave Hoc’s, as the soldiers went to work.
Hoc looked away as one of the soldiers dragged a metal chair across the room, while another removed a backpack from his shoulders and pulled out a power drill. He immediately began bolting the chairs legs to the floor.
Hoc watched in silent terror as the two men subduing the hostage, ripped off his shirt, sending buttons flying in all directions.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” the Hawaiian cried out. “Why are you doing this to me?” No one responded, and the helpless man was forced into the chair. His struggle was in vain as they cuffed his wrists to the arms, and tied his ankles to the legs.
When their work was done, the four soldiers clutched their rifles and backed up to surround the silver haired man in a protective square.
“Please,” the poor man called out. “I have a family, babies.”
“Alright Dr. Lyra,” The Suit called. “This is your team. You do the honors.”
Hoc looked at Dr. Lyra, the oldest of the scientists, and one of the most respected names in his field. He hesitated before taking a step forward. He glanced from the prisoner, to Hoc, to The Suit.
“Wait,” Hoc said. “What are you doing?”
Robert smiled and held one hand out at him, “Just watch.”
The soldiers raised their rifles, pointing them at Dr. Lyra.
“Get on with it,” the man in the suit demanded. “Remember, this is what you were hired to do.”
“Come on,” Dr. Lyra called lowly to the others. They moved around the lab gathering medical equipment. Hoc stood, frozen. He was confused. What the hell is happening? He couldn’t shake the heavy weight of knowing that somehow he had contributed to what was taking place in front of him.
Dr. Lyra rolled a medical monitor over to the prisoner, who continued to struggle against his restraints as the Doctor attached several electrodes to his exposed chest. The female scientists turned on the infrared body thermal screen, which revealed the man’s body temperature that was two degrees above normal, probably due to the stress, struggle, and terror he’d experienced when he was abducted and dragged through the lab.
Robert carried over a small black case that Hoc had never seen before. He took out a syringe, its barrel filled with swirling red and black liquid, reminding Hoc of magma.
Dr. Lyra stared at it, but didn’t take it. He looked back at the silver haired man and gave him a pleading look, but his silent plea was met with irritation and impatience. The soldiers looked as if they were ready to rain bullets at his command. Robert’s emerald eyes, were wild with anticipation as he held the syringe out to Dr. Lyra.
He was enjoying this.
“Take it Lyra,” Robert said pushing the syringe into his hand. “The boss is giving you the honor.”
Hoc stepped forward, and in an instant of reflex, two of the machine guns were pointed at him. He froze. He could do nothing, say nothing. They were all just pieces on a chess board, used for their different skills to win a game they didn’t fully understand.
Everyone watched in silence as the needle pierced the screaming man’s arm, and the fiery liquid was pushed into his bloodstream. The scientists immediately backed away from the man, clearly afraid of what they just injected him with.
The Hawaiian immediately stopped crying. His body went rigid and he sat up completely straight. The veins in his neck looked ready to explode. Pain. Unimaginable pain consumed him, scorching him from the inside. He clenched his jaw, his teeth grinding. His entire body started shaking and convulsing, his skin turning almost as red as the liquid in the syringe. The man screamed. It was the most ungodly sound Hoc had ever heard. For several minutes, the man suffered, before a single bloody tear ran down his left cheek, and he closed his bloodshot eyes. His body went limp, and his head dropped to his chest.
The screens were flashing and beeping radically as the man’s temperature was 106.1 degrees and still climbing. Hoc’s eyes flashed to the heart rate monitor which read 196 beats per minute. He shook his head. How is he still alive? Hoc took a step closer, despite all reason and intuition warning him to stay back. Blood soaked saliva dripped from the man’s mouth onto his soiled pants. Keeping his distance, Hoc bent down to look at the man’s face.
In an instant, the man burst from the chair, releasing a deep roar with the ferocity of a lion. Hoc jumped back so hard that he stumbled and fell. He could see that the man’s eyes were wild and hungry with hatred as he got back to his feet. His pupils were so dilated that his irises could barely be seen and the whites of his eyes had turned a sickening yellow.
The handcuffs held the man tight, but he was pulling so hard to get free that the skin on his wrists started to rip away below the metal, smearing blood across the arms of the chair. Several intense minutes passed before the man stopped moving. He glared at Hoc with an intensity he could feel. It was as if the man knew that this was all his fault. The man was hemorrhaging. Blood ran down from his eyes, ears, and nostrils.
The silver haired man clapped again slow and hard. “Congratulations on a job well done.” There was a moment of silence before he continued. “Now shoot them.”
Fear and panic flooded the room as Hoc and the other scientists, except for Robert, ran toward the door in a pathetic attempt to flee. The woman screamed as the reverberation of bullets echoed throughout the room. Hoc watched in horror as a bullet entered the rear of her cranium, exploding through her face and sending bits of brain and bone flying forward against the door.
Hoc closed his eyes and looked away, which caused him to collide with a stool. He stumbled as a bullet hit his right arm, and another ripped through his left hand. Then he felt the sting of a final bullet slicing through his neck as he tumbled to the cold cement floor.
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