All In

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Fiction, Test Subject

Warehouse is a bit of a misnomer, but I can’t come up with anything more fitting. Everything is as white in here as it was grey on the outside. The only exceptions are a pair of eye-wash stations and the occasional fire extinguisher that add red accents to the area around them. Light seems to come from every surface, but somehow it isn’t uncomfortably bright. Near and to the right of us is a series of workstations. There are monitors and keyboards sprouting out of each one, as well as electrical outlets, but only the two stations at the far end seem to be in use at all. Past the duo of live stations is a large white refrigerator and a series of standing cabinets. Off to my left is a white cylinder large enough to be a carwash. At about four feet high is a clear stripe of window panel that lets me see into it. Past the cylinder is a wall with a double door that stands open. Above it is a sign with nothing but a red cross.

“Uh, where’s everyone else?” I ask. I don’t really know where to start, but we seem to be the only people here.

“There is no one else,” the doctor says.

“Then why the cattle-call from yesterday? What happened with all the other doctors, or nurses, or whatever?” She looks up at me. I give her a shrug and a sheepish grin. “I mean, that’s a pretty elaborate smokescreen for whatever we’re really doing here.”

“Perceptive.” She looks back down at her clipboard. She starts toward the active workstations. I follow, waiting for an answer. Instead, she says, “Tell me why you have two black eyes.”

“Night before last, someone broke into my apartment. I was lucky enough to get home while he was halfway through stealing whatever I had left.” She looks back at me. I take the hint and continue. “He flattened me as I walked in, then took off.”

“Did he take anything of value?”

“I don’t know if you caught on, Doc, but I don’t own much of value these days.”

“Fair point.”

“Your turn,” I tell her. She raises an eyebrow at me. “Look, I’m positive you’re much smarter than me, but let’s pretend for a minute that I know there’s far more going on here than you’ve told me.” She leans back against the counter and looks me over for a minute. A very long minute. I feel the back of my neck heat up.

“Okay,” she says finally. “I am working on a set of designer drugs that augment humans. Early tests have shown that some people are better suited to these augmentations than others. My cattle-call, as you put it, was to find suitable candidates for the next round of testing.”

“And I was the only one suitable?”

“That isn’t something you need to worry about.”

“Yeah, alright.” For now. “When you say ‘augmentation,’ are we talking about steroids and such?”

“Not exactly.” She’s scribbling something on her clipboard again. “The effects are a little more… dramatic.”

“Are these dramatic effects permanent?”

“No. Like many over-the-counter drugs, these compounds move through the body and the effects cease once the components break down.” She looks back up at me. I still can’t meet that gaze. I let my own eyes wander all over the lab. Dramatic augmentation, huh? I think for a minute.

“Alright,” I tell her. “So what’s the going wage for a laboratory rat these days?” She pulls a paper out of the stack on her clipboard and hands it to me. It’s an employment contract. I look it over, and my eyes bug out as I scan it. “Three grand a month?” I’ve never been paid so well in my life.

“You will be available to me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

“Still… ” I trail off. “Where do I sign?”

“Are you certain? This isn’t something that you can just quit.” I had all the time I needed last night to consider.

“I’m all in, Allie.” She holds a pen out to me. I reach for it, but she doesn’t let go.

“One thing. Don’t call me Allie.”

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