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Authors: Amy Lunderman

Tags: #Young Adult

Persona

 

Persona

A Novel

Copywrite 2012 By Amy Lunderman

Kindle Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

The past is never dead, it is not even past.

-William Faulkner

Prologue

March 31, 2011

Cell block two; chamber six; inmate Black; check, running down the patient check-list Bethany Warner prepares for her nightly rounds. Out of all the inmates at this institution, Black is her least favorite. She doesn’t know if his viral doses were stronger in the beginning, but his mood and antics are always up and down these days. Marshall Black was one of the original twenty experiments. And lately, he has grown unmanageable.

Not that any of the others can be controlled any better, but he’s worse somehow.

This makes her think about how it all started. It pains her to know that she is aware of it at all, but at least she feels remorse. It can’t be said for some of her coworkers, or for the creators of this facility for that matter. After the last time young men and woman got shipped overseas, the military was tired of losing more and more of them. So five years ago a scientist and an army general decided to play around with people’s dna strands. Who would give them the clearance or a patent for this sort thing she doesn’t know. Not that Bethany thinks herself any better than them, being a nurse for the facility and all, but it still feels wrong to her.

The scientist that prefers to call himself a doctor, Peter Fletcher was experimenting with wild wolves during the early days. He was originally studying how they’re dna was very unique enough for him to change its layers. Or maybe he was just a crazy radicalism junkie who thought pretending to be God for a half an hour was just the thing to win him a Pulitzer. Luckily for his ideas, with the help of his longtime friend General Dixon Hetch, they began devising they’re plan.

Actually, the way the story goes it all happened accidently, but Bethany doesn’t believe in accidents, at least not when Fletcher is concerned. Apparently, one of Fletcher’s lab assistants was trying to free a live specimen, only the plan backfired on him. The newly freed wolf attacked him. It would have killed him too, but a guard came in with a gun and shot it. The assistant having been mutilated went into shock almost instantly and slipped into a coma that night. Rather than calling for paramedics to collect the man, they kept him in the lab. The wolf wasn’t so lucky. But it does come into play later on. For the man however, over the span of a week he began to heal rapidly. Eventually he even woke up.

He appeared to be in perfect condition, aside from a couple side effects.

With a quick mental shake, Bethany slides up from her deck chair and makes her way down the long corridor leading to inmate Blacks cell. The sooner she gets this over with, the sooner she can get home to her husband and share a surprise with him. She straightens her lab coat, fiddles with her key card, and then pauses just as she gets to the locked door. Sighing, she reaches into her pocket double checking for the syringe. This makes her think back again to why she needs the sedative for her patient in the first place.

The side effect that Fletcher’s lab assistant had was pure unadulterated rage. It was like rabies and that wasn’t the only problem. He turned into a monster. Literally. It was the weirdest thing. His eyes changed their color completely and became bright. His mouth filled with elongated razor sharp teeth. His nails became more like claws with their pointed tips. All of this fueled his rage. And when he became uncontrollable, it was time to keep him sedated. Oddly enough, when he was asleep the traits would disappear. What happened next is a bit of a mystery. Days of testing became the way of life, but it wasn’t long until the key to Fletcher’s lab assistant’s changes were because of what he was doing to the wolf.

It wasn’t the wolf really…it was the drugs inside the wolf.

This discovery made Fletcher and Hetch very popular with anyone that would listen. In no time at all they got the facility they wanted to run they’re tests. Over the next couple of years they were all very busy. Different cocktails of the drug used were experimented on. It basically consisted of wolf and human dna that was spliced together for human injection, all courtesy of one nameless lab assistant that never saw the light of day again. Fletcher became famous among his colleagues, but it wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be known as the man that changed the world, not the man that was known for creating something new. What he needed, no wanted, were live human subjects to further his testing. But not just any run of the mill individuals with nothing to lose. The original plan in the beginning was to figure out a way to make a kind of super soldier.

Staying true to that idea, twenty willing soldiers were picked for the experiment.

Testing began so quickly, no one really had time to take the outcome into consideration. Bethany remembers it like it was only yesterday. It was horrible. Upon receiving the first dose, half of the people died. The other ten had the same reaction as Fletcher’s lab assistant did, only a little differently. While the teeth and nails sharpened, and the eyes changing color, they’re hair would change color as well. With this new development something else became very clear right away. None of these subjects had the same uncontrollable rage like Fletcher’s lab assistant. This became something to celebrate. They did it, Peter Fletcher did it. A super soldier, albeit a peculiar one, was created.

That must mean it was time to sample the merchandise and send them out into the world right?

Wrong.

That first day of testing was over a year ago. None of the subjects ever left the facility. Obviously. If they had, then Bethany would probably find herself out of a job. Of course, she’s lucky to have gotten it in the first place. She signed on here months after the initial testing, so all her knowledge of what happened after is all hearsay. But people talk. Nurses talk even more, especially on the midnight shift when the coffee eventually runs low. The way she heard it, was that all the subjects were instantly locked up and it seems to have been that way ever since. There were some rumors floating around too though. Some of her colleagues think that a new serum is being designed from the blood of her patients.

She doesn’t know what to believe, but it is strange that her only function is to keep them all sedated and collect blood samples. Sure, she does check vitals and such, but it’s definitely strange. Not to mention the fact that all the subjects have taken on a human visage. For all she knows everything that happed a year ago could be a lie, they all look human to her. Not the super soldiers of trials past. However, there is the Marshall Black problem she has to contend with. Standing at the door, Bethany doesn’t hear anything from the other side, but that’s not unusual. What’s unusual is that she’s alone. Normally there is supposed to be more than one nurse on the night shift. But tonight, her usual partner in crime Dana Constance had a family emergency.

Making tonight the first time patient rounds haven’t been on schedule.

Even if her injections are off, that doesn’t mean anything…right?

Shaking off her unease, Bethany pulls her keycard out of her pocket and slides it through the key pad on the wall beside the door. The red button turns green and the door opens with a click. She walks into the room. Or rather, she tip toes into the
cell
, which is only a small five by eight sterile room with just a bed in its center. However, the bed is empty when Bethany walks into the room. Before she can register anything, she gets shoved from behind. In alarm she spins around and hits out with her hand holding the key card. She feels it sink into skin. Then in a blink, she sees an angry Marshall Black across the cell by the door. He now has a shallow cut across his left eyebrow. He lifts his hand to his face and it comes away with a drop of blood. Bringing it to his mouth, he licks his fingers clean.

His eyes change first from light blue, to a startling deep navy. His light blonde hair goes next. It turns a dark shade of chestnut. He grins wickedly at her revealing teeth that all go pointed at the same time. As he takes a step to her, his hands unclench at his sides, exposing razor sharp nails that are fast becoming more like claws. Chills course down her spin. All her training never prepared her for this. A scream builds in the back of her throat as she tries to take a step back. But her feet are frozen. Instead she blindly reaches for the needle in her pocket, but her frozen hesitation cost her, because he’s too fast. He’s in front of her in a heartbeat and knocks her hand from her side. His claws rake her arm as he does. The syringe falls to the floor with a soft sounding plink that sounds like a death gong to her ears. Yelling, she tries to get away from him. She manages to strike out with her fists, but they have no real effect. He jumps back mocking her, then pounces back and easily slaps the side of her face with his clawed fingers. They dig into the side of her cheeks with an instant stinging pain.

She cries out, hoping someone will come to her rescue, but even she knows it’s useless.

Helplessly she falls to the ground.

***

Marshall stands over the woman for a moment. He stares at her with something between hatred and pity. But he doesn’t hurt her anymore and neither does he try to help her. Instead, he takes his chance and runs out of the door. He races down the long corridor passing an abandoned desk station and rounds another corner. He comes to a narrow hallway that ends in two closed doors. One has a key pad next to it. The other has a picture of stairs and the word exit. He takes the latter without hesitation. An alarm goes off when he opens the door, but he doesn’t stop. The stairs just go up and he takes them two at a time until he comes to another door. This one brings him to another stairwell going up and to another door, he continues up. When he reaches the top of the stairs there is just another door. With no other choice he opens it.

On the other side is a brightly lit hallway.

The loud wailing of the alarm is louder here so that he cringes.

To his right is a stretching corridor with doors lining down almost unending. To his left is a steel door with the word exit in blinking neon above it. He’s about to turn to the door, when a dozen men in uniform carrying guns come through one of the doors on his right. He pauses. They yell at him to freeze. To emphasize this they all raise their guns to his chest. He knows he should be worried, but all he feels is strength and invincibility, grinning he rushes at them in one swift movement. They all fire at once. The sound ricochets through the hall echoing with the wailing of the alarm. But he’s faster than they thought. Marshall easily dodges the bullets as if moving in slow motion, or just moving very fast, whatever it is he loves the feeling. As he goes into the group of men, he strikes at them with his claws, and one by one they all fall to the ground in puddles of oozing blood. Marshall is the only one left standing. With a smug smile, he shrugs at the sight before him.

Stepping over bodies, he makes his way quickly to the exit door.

He doesn’t look back as he pushes it open, warm spring afternoon air rush at him.

***

Three stories underground Bethany is still lying on the floor in the empty cell.

Her body convulses in bone grinding pain. And through it all she feels paralyzed from do anything else. The scratch marks on her arm and cheek feel as if they are swollen enough to make her skin stretch tight. They burn in a terrifying way as if she is being poisoned. It’s so strong that she can’t hold back the screams. She doesn’t know how long she lies there like that, but eventually there are voices approaching her. Hands hold her down, their pressure is soft and firm, but their touch makes the pain spike up a notch. Her vision is blurry so she’s not sure who they are, but she knows one thing for sure, Marshall infected her with his claws. If that is the case then she has the gut wrenching feeling that she won’t be the only one. It shouldn’t be possible. No one ever even hinted at the possibility. But the fact that all the patients are supposed to remain sedated finally makes sense to her now.

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