Selina Vargas, head surgeon and Clarity Inc. board member, stood over the sealed-off medical table that her subject was inhabiting. The doctor looked over the man’s file for the hundredth time: “Subject Zero”, Khaleid Al-Far. He was head of Sunreach Tower security until a few weeks ago. Maybe he will be again if the latest serum does what they anticipate.  

She was always professional, but with a glance to his brainwave monitor, she could tell he was effectively asleep, and let her eyes dance down his mostly bare body. He was quite the specimen, even more so than when they spent that one drunken evening together last year. Remer’s experiments had changed the man from wiry and lean to mostly muscle. However unethical Doctor Remer’s experiments, she had to say, the effects were quite stunning.

In her peripheral, she saw the brainwaves spike on the monitor.  Her eyes moved to his only to see them staring into hers, a sultry smile playing at the corners of his mouth. She flashed her dazzling whites at him, but didn’t blush or back down. She was never shy about what she wanted.

He used his fingers to trace a heart on the inside of the glass, eliciting an eye roll from the ever-practical head of surgery. She went back to reading his chart, now for the 101st time.

The patient spoke up loudly to be heard through the glass. “Where’s Ol’ Gerry?”

A near-scowl replaced Selina’s fancy. She matched his volume easily with the anger in her voice. “Doctor Remer is no longer in charge of this experiment. I know you were excited to press him onward as he avoided proper procedure and testing schedules, but I’m reining in this trial to a more sustainable pace.”

“Oh.” Khaleid finally let the smile drop from his charming features. “That’s a shame, hope you guys aren’t too hard on the Doc.”

“Try to get back to a mostly-sleep state,” she said with a firm, yet soothing tone. “We need to monitor you closely as we administer the serum, if your vitals are changing for any other reason, it will be harder for us to counteract any negative effects that might present themselves.”

“Sorry, I had to wake up. I needed more dream fuel.” He smiled again, alternatingly flexing his pectoral muscles.

Selina couldn’t help but laugh. “Back to sleep, Romeo.”

“Yes, doctor…” Khaleid smiled once more before settling back into his meditation.

* * *

Doctor Vargas stood with her clipboard, taking notes and keeping meticulous watch on the health of her patient.  She glanced up to Clara, her current assistant, who was slowly administering the serum into the quadruple IV system.

Doctor Gerry Remer stood with his arms folded near the corner of the room, seeming disinterested. “This is a waste of time, we should have doubled the dose.”

The comment received wide eyes and a slightly agape mouth from Assistant Clara. Selina just growled and made a point to pay him no further attention.

“30%, Doctor Vargas,” Clara squeaked out, afraid to pop the tension balloon forming in the room.

“Vitals look good. Coloration healthy. No more vein bulging. Looks like we slowed the progression to a reasonable pace, wouldn’t you say?”  She was looking at Clara, but the tone in her voice was vitriol aimed at Remer.

“Hrmph.” Ol’ Gerry grunted as he shifted his tiny feet around the floor. The withered, wild-haired researcher was nearing his 80th birthday, but most people claimed he was over a hundred.  

Selina gave a moment to muse over bringing up a company-wide mandatory retirement age at the next board meeting now that Gerry wasn’t a board member anymore. She didn’t like Kyle Milligan — Remer’s replacement — much more as a board member as far as ethics were concerned, but at least he was tolerable and tried to put on a civil face.

A beeping noise brought Selina back to the present. “Blood pressure, again.”

“At 50%, again,” Clara confirmed. “Should I…?”

“Yes, call it. NID-vac as much as you can from his system, we need—”

“No!” Remer interjected. “The veins healed last time, they’ll heal again! He’s healing faster every time!”

“Doctor Remer,” Selina started, trying to keep things from getting heated. “Lain wanted me in charge for exactly this—”

Remer ignored her and charged across the room. “Clara, you little twit, don’t you touch those controls! He might not heal without this dose, we have to push forward, for his sake!”

Clara’s eyes were wide with conflict. They darted back and forth between Vargas and the controls.

“For heaven’s sake…”  The head surgeon let her clipboard clatter on the ground as she rushed over to the controls.

“You mustn’t!” Remer lunged at the woman, tackling her to the ground.

Clara screamed, backing away into a misplaced stool which sent her stumbling into the control panel for the intravenous injector.  

As Vargas struggled out from underneath Ol’ Gerry’s feeble attempt at a grapple, his face in the floor trying to pin her leg, she shushed his muffled screaming so she could bring order to the room.

She finally wrestled out from his grasp and looked up to the control monitor: the dosage was already at 200% and climbing rapidly. She realized the muffled screaming wasn’t coming from Remer’s face in the floor, it was coming from inside the glass dome.  

Clara moaned from a spot on the floor and grasped at her now bleeding head. “Doctor…?”

As Selina tried desperately to get off the floor, she realized her lab coat was stuck on the flailing Gerry, and she struggled her way out of it. When she got to her feet, a loud cracking noise stopped her in her tracks. She saw a spider-web of lines climbing across the glass container of the med-table.

Before she could catch her breath, another impact sent glass flying across the lab.

All three researchers screamed.

After a few bated breaths, a figure rose, standing tall and wide on the table. His head was down, thick black hair covering his face. His arms and chest were bulging, the veins across his skin throbbing with a sickly green tint.  

“Rargh!” Khaleid cried out, throwing his head back. For just a moment, Selina could see the green climbing into the whites of his eyes. His jaw was clenched to a point near breaking.

With a few deep breaths, the behemoth’s muscles started to relax, deflating to nearly human proportions. The veins began receding, the green tint dissipating. His breathing normalized. “I think…  I think I’m alright.” He took in one more deep breath.

“What have we done?” Selina asked into the ether, all three onlookers stunned in disbelief.

“Something miraculous.” Remer answered. “Something groundbreaking.”

Subject Zero
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