Chapter 5: On Display
Philip woke up with the feeling of a vibrating wrist band. He cracked his eyes open and peered at the wristband on his right hand and noticed it was a red color. He groaned and let his head fall back on the bed. He knew he couldn’t tarry or ignore it, or they would bring him by force, so he dragged his feet off of the bed, changed into the usual jumpsuits they gave them, and headed down the stairs. He saw Rutherford waiting for him by the main door with a smirk.
“Come on, you can’t leave your fans waiting,” Rutherford stated, and headed out the main door with Philip dragging his feet behind him.
Philip knew that they were heading to the lab, the one that he christened ‘the fish tank’ in his mind. It reminded him of pictures he saw in books of fish tanks. He was right, they arrived at a large white circular room with three doors on the opposing side. Philip never really knew where the other doors led to. In the center of the room, nestled between a row of circular workbenches was a large circular glass chamber. He hated that chamber, but he liked this room for its vast windows. At the top of the circular room walls, was an endless array of windows encircling the whole room, falling to about two feet from the ceiling. He enjoyed the blue sky and the white puffy clouds, a view he was not privy to in the confines of his stay. He could tell that it was a rather cold day today as the condensation on the windows was extensive and there was a thin line of ice covering the bottom sill of the glass.
Rutherford stood at the open door to the fish tank glass chamber and motioned for Philip to enter. As soon as he made his entrance, a glass panel slid up from the floor to seal him in. Philip saw that it was furnished with a treadmill and a bench, so he opted to take a seat on the bench to see what fate had in store for him.
It hadn’t been long when Rutherford returned from one of the three doors, with ten or so other men, all dressed in short white coats with their names embroidered on their breast pockets. They all looked at Philip with apprehension, curiosity, and to Philip’s surprise, fear.
“Enter gentlemen, as promised you will get to witness for yourselves today the capabilities of Subject 1. I know you’ve all reviewed the footage of the other subjects as they were practicing against subject 1 and wanted to see for yourselves what he was capable of.” Rutherford announced.
Philip felt like he was the main spectacle at a zoo, a rare creature for others to gawk and point at. He wanted to tear off the cuffs and indeed show them what he was capable of. But if there was a way out of the cuffs, he would have known it by now. He read a plethora of engineering books with the sole purpose of reverse engineering them, but all his attempts were futile.
“Sir, how safe are we right now, standing in such close proximity to the specimen?” One of the men asked Rutherford. To which Rutherford produced a small remote from his pocket with a sliding button on it.
“The round room, you see before you is bulletproof and virtually indestructible. Also, the remote you see in my hand helps me control the subjects. It automatically connects to the cuffs of any of the subjects just by pointing it at any one of them. The slider controls how much electricity I can push into their bodies. I hear it’s quite painful, wouldn’t know myself though.” He ended with a forced laugh. To which some of the other scientists smirked.
Rutherford kept his finger on the slider and pointed it towards Philip.
“Subject 1, please stand.” He spoke.
Philip raised one eyebrow his way and slowly stood up putting his hands in his pockets. He knew that this was Rutherford’s way of challenging him, of seeing whether he would comply to a simple order. He did, knowing that standing would not be what gets him zapped. Any order to produce blue fire would be met with resistance and he was prepared for the pain. This was the one thing he refused to give them the satisfaction of knowing.
Rutherford wore a smug smile on his face. “Now please give us a small demonstration of your abilities.”
They both knew the outcome of this, as the same scenario had played out so many times before. Philip crossed his arms across his chest and just glared at his tormentor. Rutherford began sliding the switch slowly. Philip’s eyes burned an electrifying bright blue in defiance, but he did not change his stance.
The onlookers were shifting their gaze from Philip to the remote that Rutherford held and back again. They could see how Rutherford was slowly increasing the electrical current.
Philip was getting tired trying to resist, the pain was increasing, and the small sting was growing to an ache, which developed into a searing heat from the inside. He could feel his knees begin to shake ever so slightly; he knew that Rutherford was sliding that cursed thing to almost the maximum. He couldn’t hold still any longer, he let out a roar of pain and bent down to steady himself on the bench. He knew that at this rate the impending darkness of blacking out was a moment away.
Suddenly, the pain was gone, and he was left panting as if he had run a marathon. He was still standing but was bent forward with one arm on the bench to steady himself. He looked up to see Rutherford still smiling.
“This, gentlemen, was our first demonstration. As you can see, subject 1 has a higher-than-normal tolerance for pain. His body rapidly heals itself to where he could withstand more physical stress than most.”
The other men looked satisfied, some began writing frantically in their notebooks and others looked ready to clap. Philip peered at all of them and thought of the irony of his situation. They were all there staring at him, studying him, as if he was not human when in reality their lack of empathy made them seem like sub-humans.
“Bring in Subject 39,” Rutherford spoke into his walkie-talky.
To everyone’s surprise, a big burly security guard emerged through the door with Daniel in tow. Rutherford pointed his remote at Daniel and stared at Philip.
Philip was still trying to recover from the remaining effects of the electricity, but he slowly straightened up and saw what Rutherford’s intentions were.
“Subject 1, produce blue fire or your sole friend here gets a taste of what you just endured,” Rutherford commanded.
Philip wasn’t sure what to do. He looked at Daniel who at this point had both hands up in the air, as if he was surrendering to someone, and wore a panicked look on his face. Philip looked back down at the ground, perhaps if he didn’t see him then he wouldn’t feel guilty.
“This is your last warning subject 1, and might I add, we will bring out all your new comrades one after another until you comply,” Rutherford exclaimed.
“So you’re telling me you’re willing to kill off all of your successful subjects, whom I’ve been training daily, just to see what I can do, knowing full well, that I can do exactly what they can do?” Phillip reasoned.
He scanned the room and saw that the other scientists were looking at Rutherford with doubt in their eyes. They weren’t just scientists, he realized, they were investors, they were worried about their money. Philip sat down gently as not to jar his still aching insides, rapid healing, yeah right, he thought to himself.
Rutherford looked uncertain for the first time all day long. He pointed the remote at Daniel and began sliding the lever up while starring daggers at Philip. Daniel immediately doubled down on the floor clutching his stomach like he was about to hurl, but didn’t make a sound.
Philip gave his best at holding a neutral face and was praying that Daniel would hold on long enough. He couldn’t give them what they wanted, or he would lose the last thing he had that was his and any tactical advantage that he had over his captors.
Yet, Rutherford was not a yielding man, he continued to increase the current, and Daniel began to let out a whimper.
“His blood will be on your hands Subject 1.” Rutherford yelled.
“My hands are clean in here.” Philip quipped stoically.
Daniel began to yell in pain, and Philip was about to give in when one of the scientists grabbed the remote from Rutherford’s hand and dialed down the lever. Philip let out the breath that he had been holding. And Rutherford looked furious with his comrade. He snatched back the remote, pointed it at Philip at cranked it all the way up.
The sudden searing pain came back like a bitter friend and Philip grabbed onto the bench with both hands but he couldn’t hold on any longer, he sensed the darkness coming and let go.
Philip toppled over the bench and laid sprawled on the ground with his muscles visibly twitching.
“Take him back.” Rutherford yelled at the security guard, motioning at Daniel, “make sure he gets rest and an extra meal right now”.
The security guard complied, helping Daniel to his feet. Daniel spared a look at Philip lying on the floor, not sure how to feel. Part of him felt betrayed that his pain did not change his friend’s mind. Yet, another part of him knew that Philip was not the kind of man to give in so easily.
Rutherford faced the others, “this is the resistance we’ve been dealing with; it’s been over a decade since we’ve seen subject 1 produce blue fire, and quite frankly, we don’t know if he still possesses the ability or if he is toying with us. I apologize, gentlemen, I was hoping for a different outcome this time, since it had seemed that the subject had formed attachments with the other subjects. But as you witnessed their kind is lacking basic human emotions. This is precisely why our research is imperative! To take what they have and place it in humans will make the perfect hybrid.”
The other scientists looked satisfied with the speech and were empathetic with Rutherford’s struggle.
“Sir in reading the demonstration notes for today, I was intrigued at seeing the subject’s immunity to disease, as you had put it. Is this still possible or is this the conclusion of the demonstration today?” one of the men asked.
Rutherford was elated and grinned like a buffoon. He was happy that the investors were not deterred by Subject 1′s antics.
“Of course, it’s still possible!” he boomed, grabbing the walkie-talky, and speaking into it. “Send team 1 and tell them we need a glucose-nutrient-rich drip.”
Within a few minutes, two women in long white coats entered the lab and proceeded into the fish tank confines. One began taking Philip’s vitals and the other slid open a panel in the ground right by the treadmill. She pulled out a long, clear, thin rubber tubing and attached a needle on the end of it. She pressed on a button on her belt and a clear liquid began to slowly flow through the tubing. She looked at her coworker who had finished taking the vitals and she gave her a nod. So working together they affixed the end of the needle into Philip’s arm and taped it down. They both stepped back by the door and were intently looking at Philip who began stirring and slowly opened his eyes. They gave Rutherford a nod and waited for the glass panel to slide down to disappear through the doors.
Philip opened his eyes expecting to see the ceiling of his room, but the brightness of the light told him he was wrong. He brought his arm up to shield his eyes from the onslaught of light and let out a pained groan at the sudden pain that such a small movement made. He let his arm fall back down and slowly slid himself up to a sitting position. His body did not like that idea at all, but he hated his previous vulnerable position. He realized he was still in the fish tank. He groaned and let his head fall back, this day did not want to end, he thought to himself.
“Up and at them, champ.” Rutherford chirped cheerily.
Philip used every ounce of self-restraint he possessed to remain calm. But he was slowly feeling better and figured he could stand. Using the bench as a crutch, he pulled himself up to his feet ever so slowly. He could feel all the eyes on him as if they were burning holes through the glass.
“Great!” Rutherford exclaimed with a single clap. “Now all you’re going to do is run a bit on the treadmill.”
Philip had determined the man was daft but was thankful that he dropped the subject of seeing blue fireworks. So he dragged his feet to the treadmill and used the sidebars to steady himself. He could feel his strength returning but not as fast as Rutherford was imagining.
Rutherford walked over to a panel and switched a dial to the number one, at which the treadmill began to speed up bringing Philip to a slow walk. Then he gradually increased it to the point that Philip was going at a jogging pace.
“spectacular!” one of the scientists whispered and began jotting things down in his notebook.
They were all intently looking at Philip when the sound of one of the back doors opening, unexpectedly, made them all turn their gaze in that direction. But there was nothing there and nobody emerged through the door.