Behind the Veil

Benjamin Stratford sat down at the kitchen table and wiped sleep from his eyes. His mother, Anne, promptly set a plate of breakfast in front of him consisting of eggs, bacon, pancakes, and large banana-nut muffin. His favorite. His father, Daniel, was reading news on a tablet while an identical plate of food gradually grew cold in front of him. Ben grabbed a fork and dug in.

“Thanks mom,” he said between mouthfuls.

“Of course.” Anne sat down. All three of them seemed identical in age. The only thing separating her son from her husband was a short beard and a few grey strands of hair. She watched her son eat, then turned toward her husband and said, “Daniel dear, I’ve got my work orders already. It seems I’m back at it tomorrow. They don’t give us single day to ourselves, do they?”

“What’re you talking about?” Daniel said, his face still engrossed in the screen. “You had twenty years off of work.”

“Where did the time go?”

“Are you saying you want another one? They won’t let you. Not until you work at least ten years.”

“I know.”

“Work will be good for you.”

“I know. Enough about that. Today is Ben’s big day. Give him some advice Daniel.”

Daniel put down the tablet and looked at his son, who had just stuffed half of a pancake in his mouth. “Good luck son. You’ll do great.” Ben grinned.

Anne rolled her eyes. “Really?”

“Hmm?” Daniel was already scrolling on the tablet.

“You’ll be late for work,” she said and pulled the tablet from his hands. Daniel got up, gave his wife a kiss on the head, and left.

“He loves you.”

“Sure,” Ben said as he mopped up the remaining syrup with his last bite of pancake.

Once he popped it into his mouth, Anne grabbed the plate and tossed it in the sink. “Ready?” she asked.

“You don’t have to take me.”

“I know. I want to. It’s your big day. You’ll be off to work tomorrow as well. What are you hoping for?”

“I don’t know. Something easy.”

“Come on Ben. You must have some idea by now. What have you been doing these past two years?”

He shrugged.

“With that attitude, you’ll end up pushing paper like your dad.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. I just want you to be happy. Okay?”

They got in the transport and sat facing each other for the ride to the Academy. Everyone in his class would graduate today and move on to join the rest of the world. They would all be assigned positions in society and start working tomorrow. Tonight, in accordance with Statute 6057, he and the 49 other students will be given the procedure to halt their aging. They will become like everyone else.

Ben watched his mother looking out the window. The sunlight reflected off her pale skin. A few strands of her short hair hung across her forehead. On the outside, she seemed younger than the girls in his class. She was definitely less concerned about other people’s opinions or about following every protocol to the letter.

Ben touched the transport vidscreen and pulled up a few articles about the procedure. None of them detailed how it was done. They only suggested relaxation techniques to use prior to the event.

“How does it work?” he asked without looking up from the articles. He kept searching. Like he had the past three months. He’d only glanced through several hundred articles out of millions. He was starting to think that none of them would provide any different information.

Anne looked over at him. “What dear?”

“How does it work? The procedure?”

“I’m not sure, to be honest.”

“What was it like when you went through it?”

“I don’t remember much. I was given a shot. Then it was over.”

“That’s it?”

“I think so, but that was thirty years ago. I don’t really remember the details.”

The transport stopped and Ben continued glancing through articles until his mom started waving. He looked up to see she was waving back at his friend Max.

“Jeez,” he muttered. He opened the door and stepped out.

“Good luck dear,” Anne called after him.

“Bye mom,” he said as the door closed and the transport darted off.

Anne stared out the window as she was sped back to her home on the edge of the city. She was overtly aware that she had just lied to her son for the first time.

Ben headed toward the front doors and Max fell in beside him.

“Dude, your mom is a babe.”

“So is yours.”

“Dude…” Max paused, then took several large strides to catch back up. “Not cool.”

“Says the guy who greeted me by saying my mom was hot.”

“Well it’s true.”

“Shut up.”

They entered the Academy’s main hall and wound their way to the terminals where they would get their assignments for the day. They found two open that were next to each other. Ben entered his code and a small slip of paper popped out of the terminal. It was smaller than a regular schedule. He grabbed it and read: Report to Stadium Omega. He looked over to see Max staring a similar small printout.

“What does yours say?” he asked.

“It just says go to Stadium Delta.” Max looked up at Ben.

“Mine says Omega.”

“That’s weird. Why would they split us up? The entire class can easily fit in one stadium.”

“I don’t know. You want to meet up before the ceremony and waste some time at Dizzy’s? Could be our last chance.”

“See you there as soon as I’m done with whatever this is.” Max waved the small slip of paper.

“Good luck,” Ben said before heading off toward his own designation.

It only took him about ten minutes to get to Stadium Omega. It was similar in shape to the other Stadiums at the Academy, but it was mainly used for concerts musical events, which Ben found strange since he barely passed the basic required courses and never touched a musical instrument again.

As he stepped inside, he saw a lone chair sitting in the center of the stadium. Next to it was a table where two men in medical scrubs were conversing. One of them saw him enter and motioned toward his friend who turned around and waved Ben over.

“Good morning,” the larger man said, “You must be Ben. My name is Peter. I’ll be administering your shot today. Garrett will be assisting me. He is completing his training. I hope you don’t mind. Have a seat.”

Peter gestured toward the chair. Ben didn’t say anything but complied. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but Peter started talking again.

“This will only take a few minutes. Garrett, would you mind prepping young Ben.”

Garrett walked over and lifted the sleeve of Ben’s left arm and wiped the skin down with some chemical that left the spot cold. It gradually grew numb. Peter turned back toward Ben. He had a syringe in one had.

“This will only take moment,” Peter said before inserting the needle. He pushed the shot into Ben’s arm, then withdrew it. Garrett pressed a cotton ball to the area the needle exited and taped it to the skin.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Garrett smiled.

“No,” Ben forced himself to reply, “So I’m free to go?”

“We just need to observe you for ten minutes,” Peter said, “Garrett will check your vitals a few times to make sure everything is okay. Then you are free to go.”

“Okay, but….but….” Ben slipped into unconsciousness before he could finish his sentence.

“That was quick,” Garrett said casually.

“Good. I hate waiting for it to kick in. Open the arena and I’ll hook him up.”

Garrett went back to the table, which was actually a large interface, and booted up Stadium Omega. The stadium’s walls and floor opened and a large mechanical apparatus assembled itself in the middle of what had been the music hall. Peter grabbed a pair of shears from a table full of surgical tools as it rose from the floor. He cut away Ben’s clothing until he was fully nude. Then he pulled two of the apparatus’ arms down and fitted them around Ben’s wrists.

“Lift him.”

Garrett fiddled with the interface and Ben was lifted out of the chair. Peter fitted two more arms to Ben’s ankles.

“Good to go.”

Garrett typed in the sequence and Ben was lifted higher while the remaining thirty-eight mechanical arms whizzed around him, scanning every molecule as his unconscious body was manipulated into every possible position it could form.

Peter and Garrett watched nonchalantly.

“What are you doing after this?” Garrett asked.

“I don’t know. I might check out the new holo-film across town. I hear they’ve created a new environment program that utilizes the theater so you actually feel like you are there.”

“Interesting. They showing anything good?”

“Not sure.”

The apparatus finished scanning Ben’s body and lowered him back onto the chair.

“What do you want?” Peter asked.

“I don’t care.”

“You played assistant today, so you pick.”

“Fine. I’ll take the head.”

Garrett grabbed a bone saw from the table full of surgery equipment. Peter removed the chair from underneath Ben. The machine held him in a sitting position. Garrett stepped behind the floating body and began cutting into the skull. He pulled the scalp away and let it drop to the floor away from the operating area. One of the arms of the apparatus picked up the biological matter. Another scanned it before the first disposed of it while a third arm wiped the blood from the area. Garrett then pulled away a large section of the skull and threw it across the stadium where it was swept up by the apparatus. He cut as much away as he could until on the base remained. Then he stepped away.

Peter stepped in and began cutting at the base of the spine. He removed sections of skin and muscle as he worked his way upward until the spine was fully exposed. He was careful not to sever any nerves.

“Scan,” Peter said, and Garrett tapped the interface. The apparatus used several arms to scan the exposed spine and open nerves.

“Scan complete. All nerves accounted for.” Garrett announced.

Peter then proceeded to cut the nerves and everything else. Blood pooled underneath Ben’s floating, unconscious body. Arms weaved in and out wiping up blood around Peter’s legs as he worked. He switched with Garrett about halfway through. Garrett continued the work until the spine was completely separated from the body.

“Grip,” Garrett called. An arm came down and Garrett inserted it between what remained of the skull and Ben’s brain. He fitted a clamp to the top of the spine, inspected his work, then looked over at Peter. “Initiate.”

Peter typed in a sequence and the apparatus pulled the body away. The brain and spine hung in place as the now empty vessel was taken away to be scanned and disposed. Arms raced around the room cleaning up the biological matter until it was spotless. The brain and spine, what remained of Benjamin Stratford, hung in the center of the stadium. Blood dripped evenly from the tip of the coccyx. Each drop wiped away milliseconds after hitting the floor. They waited. Each wondering how long it would take.

The apparatus whirred into motion. Body parts were being pulled out from hidden compartments. Freshly made mechanical pieces. 8,468 pieces were assembled in front of the floating brain and spine. Within minutes, a replica of Ben had been created.

“Lace him up,” Garrett said.

Peter made his way over to the new body and, working from the bottom up, began attaching each nerve ending to its corresponding mechanical counterpart. It was tedious work. Hours passed before he finished.

“Cap him,” he said tiredly.

Garrett got up and traded places with Peter. He slowly merged the spine and brain, now fully connected to the fabricated body, until the brain nestled into its new home. He carefully closed the skull compartment and ruffled the synthetic hair for good luck. It was a routine he picked up as he learned the job. He entered the final sequence and the apparatus completed the final process scanned the body one last time. Garrett placed the chair beneath Ben’s new body before the arms pulled away and disappeared behind the walls and floor. The stadium was once again what it had always been. One of fifty places within the Academy that held school events.

“Okay. Wake him up,” Garrett said.

Peter stepped up to the only table in the room. The interface had gone dark. He pulled a second syringe from it and went over to Ben. He injected the shot into Ben’s arm and Garrett placed a cotton ball over the area and taped it there.

Ben’s eyes fluttered open. He looked around. He squinted in the light. “What happened?”

“You passed out there for a few hours Ben,” Peter explained, “It’s common and nothing to worry about. The shot is a shock to the system. About eighty percent of people go into a hibernation mode for a while as the solution goes to work.”

“How does it work? What does it do?”

“That’s classified I’m afraid. Even we don’t know, but you need to run along. You wouldn’t want to miss your job assignment.”

Garrett came over and handed him a slip of paper. He took it and looked it over. It read: Report to Ceremony Hall. 

Ben left Stadium Omega with a dull headache and made his way to the Ceremony Hall. He walked in to find several of his classmates already there. Many of the viewing seats in the hall were filled with parents. All of them the same age as he was. He looked over the crowd of people who could easily be his peers. He found his mom waving to him. He waved back and took his seat. He took a seat and waited for the remainder of his class to join them. The entire time he waited, he couldn’t help but think about the procedure. He couldn’t remember anything after the shot. Just like his mom had said, but something in him wondered how it worked. For the first time since entering the Academy, he hoped he would be given a job in Research. Where he could find the answers no one else seemed to wonder about.

 

My Own Monster

Obtaining a body was much easier than Madie thought it would have been. A few thousand dollars to a coroner and she was loading the corpse of a thirty-two-year-old male in the back of an ice truck. His end was somewhat sad, but Madie didn’t care much about that. All she cared about was that she got the body. It was slated for cremation. Whoever received the urn would never know that the pile of ash within it was not who, or what, they thought it was.

It was important that she get a fresh corpse. This guy wasn’t even dead for a full forty-eight hours, and he was kept in a controlled environment that slowed the cell decomposition. Now, after unloading him from the truck, he was now in her own environmentally controlled lab that would keep his body in prime condition for her experiments.

The first step was to hook him up. She cut the large “Y” pattern of stitches on his chest and opened his rib-cage so she could get to his heart. She hooked up four leads, one into each chamber, then she attached the eight pints of A- blood she also bought from the coroner to the machine. She ran two more leads to the dead man’s lungs. She flipped a switch and the heart-lung machine hummed to life. It began pumping blood and oxygen into the corpse’s body. This was the first, crucial step. She had to stop the autolysis. Bodies begin to decay as soon as they die. Providing fresh blood and oxygen would help remove the toxins that began the decomposition process. She hoped the body was fresh enough that what little damage had already occurred could be reversed.

With the body hooked up, she now had to wait. She wanted to begin tests right away, and was itching to inject the first serum now, but a glimpse at the clock showed that it was already four in the morning. She let logic win out against her eagerness. It would be best to let the body acclimate before starting any tests.


Madie kicked off her shoes when she got home from working a temporary waitress job. She was exhausted, physically, but her excitement triumphed and she hurried down the stairs to her patient. She entered the sealed lab she built in her basement to find her corpse looking a little more alive. The cold pallor had been replaced with a warmer hue. He could easily have been mistaken for an actual patient in the middle of an open-heart surgery.

She checked the machine, replaced two pints of blood with newer ones, and removed a bag of black bio-matter that had been separated from the bloodstream. Then she turned her attention to the dead man. He was cute. She surprised herself when the thought crossed her mind. She turned and opened a refrigerated drawer. Inside were three syringes.

They were all concoctions of her own design. Created after years of research and testing on small animals. She insisted on human testing. After the third denial, and a stern warning, she was insistent enough that they fired her. She was careful not to leave any notes behind when she left, and was thankful to still have friends in the field that helped her get the materials she needed to continue her research in secret.

Madie picked up the first syringe. She inserted the needle into the injection port connected to the blood supply line and pushed the serum into the bloodstream. She watched it dissolve into the blood. An excitement ran through her. She stood stiffly, waiting for something to happen. When nothing changed, she sighed and sat down in the desk chair by the computer. Science was never instantaneous. Her calculations put the first stage’s completion at four hours after injection. She knew the math was correct, but of course she also hoped for an unexpected triumph.

“Now we wait,” she said to the empty room. She woke the computer and began running scenarios. She checked on the body every twenty minutes.

Four hours passed and her alarm sounded. She left the computer station and checked the body thoroughly before pushing the second injection. Again, she waited with a tinge of excitement. Again, her logic won out and she sat back at the computer, triple checking her calculations for stage two based on the real data of stage one. The time only adjusted my three minutes and fourteen seconds. Now she only had to wait just under sixteen hours.


Madie woke to her alarm. She wiped sleep away from her eyes as she slowly gained full consciousness. She silenced the annoying beep and glanced over at the body. Stage two was complete. She examined him again. He was warm to the touch. The heart was twitching, not beating, but moving. She ran a few tests and was relieved to find everything was exactly as it should be. She pushed the final injection.

The third stage was expected to take forty-five minutes for completion. Madie did not set an alarm because she knew she would hover anxiously the entire time. Her eyes only left the body to check the machine. Then it happened. At the forty-third minute mark, the heart beat. Then it beat again. It began a steady rhythm. Madie carefully removed the leads and watched in pure euphoria as the dead man’s heart began pumping blood on its own.

Then something happened that she was not prepared for. The body groaned. The man, dead for nearly four days, was waking up. She hurriedly prepared an anesthetic. His eyes opened, focused, then looked at her. She could not stop smiling.

“Wh-”

“Shh,” Madie stopped him, “you were in a bad accident. You are in surgery now. I’m going to give a little more anesthetic.”

His eyes lulled and he went under. She unhooked him from the machine. He was able to breathe on his own. She carefully sewed him up. He was alive. She couldn’t believe it. Her research predicted it was possible, but she still couldn’t believe she’d achieved it. All she had to do now was nurse him back to health. After she calmed down that is. Then she could begin Phase 2.


Madie had promptly quit her waitress job. She remained awestruck for three hours. She had brought a dead man back to life. He remained unconscious on her lab table/hospital bed while she paced near the computer station. She knew her theories would work, but she was still coming to terms with the reality that she had completed her experiment. Seven long years. Five at the facility in Washington and two in her own little lab she built after being fired. After seven years, she had done what everyone thought was impossible. Only a few had even attempted what she had. To her knowledge, she was the first to succeed.

She felt unsure about what to do next for the first time in her memory, so she went into autopilot and began checking the reanimated man’s vitals every fifteen minutes. She searched her desk to find the few pages that the coroner gave her.

  • Name: Adam Robert Monteller
  • Birth: 23 April, 1974
  • City of Birth: Harrisburg, Illinois
  • Deceased: 16 September, 2006
  • Location Pronounced Deceased: Necaise, Mississippi
  • Cause of death: Automobile Accident
  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6′ 2″
  • Weight: 224 (12 hours posthumously)
  • Marital Status: Never Married
  • Next of Kin: None

And at the very end it read:

  • Remains to be cremated per city ordinance

The entire world believed Adam Robert Monteller had died and was cremated as directed by local legislature regarding unclaimed persons. That is, if anyone was even looking to know that information.

In reality, Adam had been brought back from death in the basement of a house leased to one Marcy Reynolds, the alias Madie had created in case any persons clad in black suits came looking for her. She assumed she would have been added to the national watch-list upon leaving her well-funded and well-guarded laboratory environment. She was surprised they never came looking for her when she used her real name. She was very careful to maintain a visage of normalcy. She even acquired a job a local university teaching biology for the first year after being forced out.

Now she had accomplished her life’s work. A dead man was no longer dead. She jot down a few notes and checked on Adam. The anesthesia wore off after a few hours and he came to. He groaned, and Madie rolled her chair over to him ready to interact. She also had a dose of anesthesia ready should she need it.

“Adam?”

He groaned and his head lolled from side to side. He was still feeling the drugs.

“Adam? Can you hear me?”

Another groan, but he was able to direct his attention toward her. His eyes were slowly adjusting. She gave him time.

“Where….where am I?”

Madie smiled. “You are in a recovery room. You had a bad accident. Do you remember anything about it?”

“I…I can’t…”

“It’s okay. It may take some time. You are still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. Do you think you can drink some water?”

She rolled over and grabbed the bottle of water from the fridge unit by her desk. She cracked it open and held it to his lips. He groaned in pain and she forced him back into the bed. He was able to take two sips before the pain caused his consciousness to slip.

“Careful,” she said, “We don’t want to open the incision. You must be in a great deal of pain. I will give you some medicine to help you rest.”

She reached for the anesthetic, realized her mistake, then quickly gave him a dose of morphine instead. He drifted into a deep sleep within a few minutes.

Madie hung her head. “Idiot,” she muttered to herself. She had pushed the original dose of anesthesia in a temporary moment of panic when he first started regaining consciousness. Now she would have to wait almost twenty-four hours before she could begin Phase 2.


She lived a few blocks from a local hospital where she knew the local ER doctor from her days back in medical school. Her name was Rachel. She was brilliant and could have been a top-class surgeon if she had the desire, but she insisted she was happy helping those who needed help in a crisis. She had almost become a pediatrician.

Madie strolled into the sparsely populated waiting room and asked for Rachel. A few minutes later Rachel came out and greeted her.

“Madie. Good to see you again. Let’s go back to my office.”

Madie followed her through the hallway of evenly spaced rooms and back to a small closet of an office. Rachel shut the door behind them.

“I hope those supplies I gave you helped your friend.”

“They did. I was hoping that I might get just a few more things. I promise it will be the last of it.”

Rachel gave her a side-eyed glance. “You know I could get in a lot of trouble for what I gave you already, right?”

“I know, and I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

Rachel sighed. “What more would you need?”

“Just an IV kit with a spare bag, and some Vicodin if you have some.”

“I can give you the IV, but Hydrocodone will have to do for the pain. You friend got pretty banged up, huh? You should have brought him in to see me.”

“It’s…complicated. He isn’t necessarily in good standing with the law.”

“What did he do?”

“Well…” Madie shrugged.

“You know what? Never mind. If I don’t know, then I can’t lie of the authorities come knocking on my door. You’re more than capable to care for anyone. We could actually use your help around here. Need a job?”

“Maybe after a while. I appreciate the assistance. And the discretion.”

“No problem. You know me. I just want to help people get back on their feet.”

“And you will be doing that for sure. Thank you so much.”


The saline solution helped accelerate the removal of the anesthesia. Madie waited a few extra hours to ensure that there would be no chance of the drug in Adam’s system before she opened a refrigerated drawer and lifted two syringes from it. One held a blue solution, the other a dark purple. She pushed them both simultaneously. The blue into the injection port of the IV and the dark purple into the injection port of the dialysis machine she had Adam hooked up to ensure any toxins were removed from his blood.

The concoction was designed to reverse any damage dealt to the body while it had been deceased and promote healing at quicker rate than would be considered normal. A separate solution remained in the drawer that she hoped wouldn’t be needed. She would only be able to make that decision after she could talk to him for a length of time. Time enough to determine if his brain was functioning correctly.

She reviewed the readout from the EEG machine. So far there hadn’t been any unusual activity.


Madie waited an entire day before beginning her conversations. Even though Adam was barely able to keep a string of thoughts together, she decided she may need to push him to determine if her third solution was needed. She considered using it anyway since it was theoretically designed to repair synaptic connections. The potential harm or cause of side-effects of using the solution unnecessarily was low, but she didn’t want to add any risks to her already successful reanimation.

Adam woke from what seemed to be a peaceful sleep. Madie gave him some water and asked if he was ready for some questions. He perked up, ready for the challenge, so she turned on the recording devices and began.

“Your name is Adam Robert Monteller, correct?” She glanced up from her clipboard. His eyes looked unfocused and she thought maybe he hadn’t heard her. Then a frown formed on his face.

“No,” he said.

Madie’s heart jolted but she remained still, frozen in the bare metal chair next to the man in the bed. The man she had brought back from death.

“Your name is not Adam Robert Monteller?” she asked.

He closed his eyes and rest his head on the pillow. “I can’t remember,” he said, “but I don’t think so. How did I get here? What happened?”

“You were in a car accident. Do you remember anything prior waking up here?” For some reason she felt the need to be careful with her words. She technically had not lied to him and decided she would try her best not to.

“Nothing.” He opened his eyes and stared into hers. She lost herself in the blue depths of those eyes, then caught herself and readjusted in her seat.

“You were found dead at the scene, but with emergency surgery we were able to bring you back. You may have suffered some neurological damage during the time your brain wasn’t receiving oxygen. We will be monitoring you during your recovery, but we believe you will regain your memories in time. If you need anything, just press this button,” she handed him the button connected to the side of the bed. It was programmed to a pager she would now keep on her at all times. Not that she planned on straying too far from her work.

“Get some rest. I’ll be by to check on you soon.” She left the makeshift clean room and went upstairs. A burning desire to shoot the coroner from whom she’d bought the body filled her entirely and she bit the meat of her thumb to keep from screaming. It wasn’t as if she could return the dumbass and demand further information. She’d risked enough just getting the body.

What she needed was time to think. She grabbed her keys and carefully locked the two deadbolts before walking to the corner coffee shop.


It didn’t matter if the man she reanimated was Adam Robert Monteller or not. The file she was given didn’t provide anything but a basis on which to judge if the final solution was needed. What really mattered was that she had successfully brought him back. He had been dead, and she had brought him back.

This was a success in its own right. Even if Adam, or whoever he was, wouldn’t survive beyond the week, her researched proved fruitful. She could replicate it if needed. If the file was wrong and this man had relatives who expected to see a body, then she would pack up what she could and destroy any evidence of her work.

She finished her coffee, paid, and left. The pager buzzed and she checked it. He was needing something and she had been gone long enough. She’d made up her mind after she first questioned him.

She bought a paper before returning to the house. A missing dead man would make the news and she would prefer to know if the authorities were searching for him, or if the coroner confessed to his dealings.


Madie entered the clean room and began checking the man’s vitals.

“I thought a nurse would come by and do that for you,” he said as she moved to check the readout of the EEG machine.

“Sorry for the delay, I was with another patient. What did you need?”

“I was wasn’t sure if I would need a new one of those.” He pointed toward the IV bag.

“You won’t,” she said, “now that you can eat and drink on your own.” She removed the needle from his arm and bandaged it.

“Oh, I guess that makes sense.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“I feel sore, all over, but it’s not terribly painful.”

“The surgery you went through was extremely invasive and taxing on your body. You will be in a lot of pain if we don’t maintain your medication.” She handed him two morphine tablets and a glass of water. He took them without question and handed the empty glass back to her. She opened the refrigerated drawer and withdrew the final solution. The dark red-purple contents could have been mistaken for blood. She pushed the solution into the port of the dialysis machine.

The man soon lost consciousness. She unhooked him from the dialysis machine. The last thing she needed was for her synaptic repair solution to be filtered out before it could work. If he truly wasn’t who she thought he was, she would need to know sooner than later.


He stirred awake and the restraints pulled taught. He looked at them, then up at Madie sitting in the chair at the computer station.

“Hey,” he said quietly. She remained fixated at on the screen in front of her. “Hey,” he called louder. This time he caught her attention and she looked over. “Where am I?”

“Good morning,” she said despite the hour, “How are you feeling?”

“Not too bad…for a dead man.”

She raised her brow at that. “So you remember?” She wasn’t terribly surprised at this. An hour after he had fallen asleep, the EEG readout became sporadic and only returned to a steady, normal pace after about thirty minutes.

“Yeah. I guess I can’t complain about feeling anything at this point. What happened? Where am I?”

“First I need you to answer a few of my questions.” She grabbed a clipboard from the desk and rolled over next to the bed. “What’s your name?”

“Tim Waldrop.”

“Last thing you remember?”

“Driving down 59.”

“And after that?”

“Waking up here.”

“Profession?”

“Army Engineer. MVD.”

“Commanding Officer?”

“Sergeant Houston.”

“Last contact?”

“Where am I? I’ve answered enough without knowing what’s going on.”

“How you answer next will determine if you get to walk out of here. Last contact with your commanding officer?”

He looked at her sternly. His face slowly relaxed and he answered, “Four days ago. I was leaving the base when I wrecked.”

Madie pulled the gun from its holster at her lower back and pressed it against his temple. He struggled against his restraints.

“Why?” he asked.

She looked directly into his eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said and pulled the trigger.


Within minutes she had wiped the computer, packed what she could, and destroyed everything else before setting fire to the house. She was on the edge of town when two black SUVs skid to a halt in front of her. Teams of armed men surrounded her and tall man stepped out of the second vehicle.

“Madeline,” he said, “What’s the hurry?”

“Pierce,” she said curtly.

“General Pierce. No need for informality here. Though I can’t return the favor as you no longer are associated with this outfit.”

“How did you find me?”

“Simple really. A trail of missing cadavers is not uncommon unless you know what to look for. They’ve already quelled the fire in Necaise. Poor Waldrop would still be alive, or could be again with your help, if you hadn’t painted the walls with his brain.”

“Who’s Waldrop?”

Pierce smirked. “Come now, you wouldn’t have gone through such measures if you hadn’t been successful. It’s time you returned now that you have successfully performed the procedure.”

“I’m not going with you.” She pulled out her cell phone but one of the armed men quickly confiscated it.

“Madeline, you know you don’t have a choice in this matter. There’s no need to struggle. We already have a lab and a new patient waiting for you in Puerto Rico. We will be there in a few hours.”

General Pierce returned to the car. A gun prodded her toward the open door and she quietly followed the instruction and got in. The door shut and they were on their way.

“So what changed?”

“You. Actually. Once you went rogue, we followed your trail finding improvements along the way. You going off on your own actually proved exactly what was needed to convince the higher-ups that this project had legs. Of course, bringing you back in was the main contingent of the project moving forward.” He smiled at her. “You’ll have everything you ever wanted in Puerto Rico. A whole team. Any resource you want. They’ve gone all in, especially after I reported about what we found in the last hour.”

“Tell me. Was Waldrop a set up?”

“Nothing ever escapes you does it. Yes. Waldrop was planted. Not easy. Sergeant Houston didn’t know of course, but the incompetent coroner was paid and since removed.”

Madie sat in the back of the SUV, certain there was at least one if not two barrels pointed at her the entire way to the airport. Her mind was running scenarios. Weighing pros and cons. Determining whether to play along or plan her escape. An entire lab would be nice and would expedite the process. Resources were hard to acquire on her own, but she didn’t know what they planned to do with her solutions though she had an idea. It sat like mercury in her stomach. Heavy. Slowly killing her. If she stayed and finished her work through Pierce, she would have to abandon her humanity, and that was a cost she wasn’t sure she could pay.