In a science laboratory in Australia, late at night, a scientist was looking through a microscope. He frowned and looked away from the lens to write down some notes before looking through the microscope again. He adjusted the focus, keeping his eyes on his work.
The scientist was in his late fifties. His hair was grey and he had creases under his eyes, showing his history of lack of sleep and too much stress. He wore a lab coat and spectacles pushed far up his nose. His spectacles were always close to his eyes when he was content and working, but slipped down his nose whenever he angered, which was quite often.
It was dark in his personal lab. There were supplies and equipment stacked on shelves and in cupboards all around the room. There were also numerous benches along the walls, and one in the centre, where he had placed test tubes of the substance he was viewing under his microscope. The entire room was white and the only light was coming from the lamp on the professor’s work desk. Most of his fellow employees had left for the night, going home to see their families, have dinner and get a good night’s rest before continuing their own projects the next day. But Professor George Ramirez was intent on finishing his work as soon as possible. He was on the verge of a breakthrough, a discovery that could change the world forever. DE-23. For him, having a proper meal or night’s sleep would be a reward for after he had finished his work.
A young man in his early twenties strolled into the room, a smile on his face. He had black hair and wore a lab coat that was a little too big for him. He was scrawny. Daniel Reid was working with Professor Ramirez to get extra credit for college, but some would say he wasn’t fit to work at the research facility due to his ‘quirks’.
He held two mugs in his hands. They were filled with hot coffee, and they were steaming in the cool air of the unheated room. As the assistant was nearing his boss, he stumbled and lost his grip on one of the mugs, but before he even had a chance to realize what was happening, the professor was standing in front of him, grasping the coffee that had almost fallen to the floor. The assistant regained his composure then smiled at the professor. He was about to say something, but the professor glared at him, set down his coffee, pushed his spectacles up his nose and turned on his heels to continue with his work. The assistant’s smile faltered, but only for a moment. He made a few quick strides to the professor’s side. He watched for a minute, and then began to fidget a little, shifting his weight from left foot to right foot. He made a quick glance at the professor’s face, and then looked back at his work, then at his face, then back to the microscope. He hesitantly leaned forward a few inches over the professor’s shoulder, then paused and checked his boss’s reaction. Then moved forward with more confidence. He bit his lip and inspected the work being done, trying to make sense of the scientist’s notes. Suddenly he felt a cold chill run up and down his spine. He slowly turned his head, and found himself looking right into the professor’s eyes as he returned a glare. The assistant moved back in shock and knocked over a test tube on the bench behind him, spilling its contents all over his right hand. He gasped in shock at the burning sensation from the green liquid. The pain seemed to spread up his arm to his shoulder, but the strange substance remained spilled on his hand. The scientist jumped up, knocking his chair over in the process. His face was fuming, and his spectacles were on the edge of his nose.
“GET OUT!” he screamed. His voice was so loud, it echoed around the room for a full five seconds before dying down.
The assistant didn’t move. He was frozen in shock and fear, and it showed on his face.
The professor’s gaze softened slightly. “Go wash your hand, Reid,” he said, his voice a little softer. “I haven’t tested what effect the compound has on skin contact.” Reid paused, unsure of how he should act. “Now, Reid!” The professor’s voice had its angry tone back.
“Yes, Professor Ramirez.” Reid hurried from the room.
Professor Ramirez stood alone in his lab for a full minute before bending down to put his chair back in place and to continue his research.
Reid raced to the nearest bathroom. He could have washed his hand in the lab, there was a sink there, but he was afraid of Ramirez, plus he wanted some privacy. If he started screaming like a child, he didn’t want his boss to see it.
Reid cursed under his breath. His hand felt like it was on fire. What was in the DE-23 compound? Acid? Likely, knowing Professor Ramirez.
He reached the bathroom and rushed to the sink. He turned on the tap and put his hand under the running water. It was cool against his burning skin. He left his hand under the running water until the green compound was completely washed away. He didn’t dare use his other hand to speed up the process. He could risk both his hands.
When he couldn’t see any more green goo on his hand, he turned off the tap and brought his hand to his face to have a closer look at the damage. His hand was red and blistered. He’d need to find the first aid kit. Maybe use some cream and bandages. Reid sighed. Figures something like this would happen to him. He was a klutz in a scientific research facility. What could go wrong, right? Reid remembered thinking before he took the job. He mentally hit himself.
He opened the door with his good hand and went in search of the first aid.
Professor Ramirez removed the slide containing a sample of his creation and placed it in the sink by his desk. He had found the information he was looking for. He knew exactly what he needed to make his compound complete. He began searching through bottles and containers on shelves, searching for the right one. It took a few long minutes, but he found it. He smiled to himself. He was about to do it. He hastily strode to the bench where he had left his test tubes. The one that Reid had spilled was still lying where he had left it, but Ramirez didn’t notice. He used an eyedropper to take a small amount, and hovered the eyedropper over one of the test tubes. He then let a drop escape and land in the test tube, and then repeated for each of the five. Not long after he had placed the cap back on the last ingredient, the test tubes began to release a gas, a similar green colour to the liquid substance. Ramirez did not notice this until he returned from placing the container and eyedropper back where he’d found them. Curious, he leaned over the test tubes, inspecting them. He took a breath, but realized his mistake too late. He coughed from inhaling some of the strange gas emitting from the compound. It burned his throat. He ran to the cupboard where he kept the rubber stoppers and placed one on each of the test tubes, stopping anything from escaping.
Ramirez took a deep breath, and then sat down, exhausted. He heard some noise coming from outside in the hall and looked up in time to see Reid walk into the room with a bandage around his hand. He stood in the doorway.
“It’s okay, Professor Ramirez. I’m okay,” Reid waved his hand a little, in front of his face. “Would you like to inspect what the green stuff did to my hand for your re-“
“No!” Reid jumped at Ramirez’s response and looked down at the floor, a little disappointed at not having a chance to really help the professor with his research. “Get those test tubes away from me,” Ramirez continued. “Put them in the storage room. Just get them out of this room. Right now!”
Reid ran forward and grabbed the rack that held all five test tubes as best he could with his injured hand, resting it on his chest, more than really holding it. Reid had just reached the doorway when Professor Ramirez quickly gave one last warning. “And Reid,” Reid turned to look at the scientist, only just realizing how exhausted he looked. “Whatever you do,” Ramirez looked at Reid carefully, “do not, I repeat, do not take off the rubber stoppers.” Reid nodded and turned the corner, leaving Professor Ramirez alone, reflecting over the occurrences of the night.
Reid walked down the white halls of the research facility with confidence. He had just done something stupid, but the professor had just given him an important task. Maybe he would be keeping his job after all.
When he reached the storage room, he pushed down on the handle with his elbow and pushed the door with his back. The sensory lights flickered on as he moved towards a free space on a desk where he could put the vials. He was about to leave when he glanced down at the rubber stoppers. Why had the prof. told me not to remove them? He asked himself. He gently held one of the test tubes with his right hand, and used his good hand to wriggle the stopper. He slowly, cautiously moved the rubber stopper closer and closer to the edge of the test tube until it finally came off. The green gas was released from its confinement and burst into the air. Reid stepped back, away from the desk.
“Oh no, not again!” he said before rushing from the room, coughing, and closing the air tight door, leaving the gas to freely spread throughout the room, waiting for its next victim.
Known Mutated Specimens
(In order of occurrence) By Daniel Reid