"What is that you're working on again?" asked Taylor as he walked up to the cluttered workbench where Roger was sitting.
"Well, it's another test for the cell rejuvenation formula," said Roger, holding the beaker up to the light for a better view.
"You still stuck on that crazy idea?" said Taylor, rolling his eyes.
Roger sighed. "Yes, I'm still working on that crazy idea."
"Man, when you gonna give that thing up? It'll never work!"
"Taylor, Taylor, ever the great pessimist."
"No, Roger, just a realist," said Taylor. "You've been working on that formula for seven months now and you've come up with what? A bunch of lab mice with cancerous growths. If I were you, I'd just give the whole thing up."
"First of all, seven months is relatively little time for something like this. And second, if I do this, it could be the major breakthrough of the century," said Roger, pouring a little of the formula into another container.
"Never has anyone been able to revive something that's dead. What makes you thing that you'll succeed?"
"I don't think that I'll succeed. Nor do I think that I'll fail. Either way I won't know the outcome unless I keep trying."
"I still think that it's a hopeless cause, but if you want to do it, go right ahead."
"Glad to see that I have your complete support on this one," said Roger with blatant sarcasm in his voice.
Roger stuck a piece of treated paper into the liquid and then set the beaker on the counter.
"Well, knock yourself out, Rog," said Taylor. "I'm going home, to sleep."
"See you tomorrow, Taylor," said Roger as he watched the piece of paper.
"Yeah, see you," said Taylor as he opened the lab door and walked out.
Roger watched as the piece of paper turned from yellow to a light, then dark green. He was fascinated as the paper kept changing different colors. This was one part of his experimentation that had actually produced some noticeable effects. The paper was treated with tissue extracted from cats. Other chemicals were added to the paper so that it would change colors when certain processes took place on the paper. The different colors that Roger was observing indicated that some cell rejuvenation was taking place. Roger grabbed a pencil from a nearby mug and scribbled some notes down on a pad of paper. Roger's heart jumped as the colors finally stopped changing. The final color on the paper was a flesh color. This showed that most of the cells had been revived.
"Yes," said Roger, "I think I'm getting close."
Roger picked the paper from the beaker and placed it in a clear plastic bag. He then wrote a description and name on a label and stuck it to the bag. He walked over to the lab freezer and put the bag inside. Roger walked back over to the counter where the beaker was. He labeled the beaker and then moved it over to another counter with other beakers filled with different fluids.
"That's enough for tonight," he said. "I think that it would be good for me to actually get a good night's sleep for once."
Roger cleaned up a few of the things that were
cluttering the counters and put them away. He slipped out of his
lab coat and hung it on a hook on the wall. After putting on his
jacket, he turned out the lights and left the lab. Roger exited the
front door of Cantor Labs and walked to his car. He looked up and
saw how clear the night sky was. A crescent moon hung high in the
heavens producing a soft glow around it. Roger crossed the dimly
lit parking lot and got into his car. He was excited about his new
discoveries and was eager to get back to work the next morning to tell
Taylor that he had actually gotten somewhere in his research. Roger
started the engine and headed home.
"...and here are just some of the places that sustained damage by last night's 4.5."
Then as Mitch spoke, the screen showed several Irvine locations where the quake had hit the worst. After the outlet shopping center was showed, Roger almost choked on his cereal as a picture of a collapsed eave at Cantor Labs was shown.
"Oh man," he said, after swallowing the cereal and taking a breath of air, "I have to get over there."
Roger quickly downed the last of the cereal and ran out of the house to his car. He started up the engine and took off. Every stoplight that Roger hit seemed to last for an eternity. Finally he pulled his car into the parking lot of Cantor Labs. He parked and ran up to the entrance where the eave had collapsed. Taylor, along with Joe, Mary, and Roger's boss Mike were all standing there.
"This is just great," said Roger.
Mike just shook his head. "Tell me about it."
"Have you guys been inside yet?" asked Roger.
"No," said Taylor, "we just got here a few minutes ago."
Mike walked around part of the fallen eave to see if there was any way to get through.
"Someone might be able to get through here, but it looks too risky. We'd better go in through one of the back entrances."
They walked around the building to the back door. Mike got out a key and unlocked it and they went inside. Joe propped the door open to let in some light to the dark hallway. The floor of the hallway which they entered was littered with pieces of ceiling tile, shards of plastic lighting covers, and broken fluorescent bulbs. Roger opened up a box on the wall and pulled out surgical masks.
"Here, you guys," he said, handing them some of the masks. "There's bound to be some things in the air that we don't want to inhale."
"If the air gets too bad, we can get an air tank or two from the emergency bin."
"Let's see if any of the light's work at the moment," said Mike, walking over to the wall switch.
Mike flipped a couple of the switches and a light or two flickered on, but dimly. He opened up the box on the wall again and pulled some flashlights out.
"We'll probably need these because I have a feeling that we're not going to get this much light in some of the other rooms."
The five of them walked down the dimly lit hallway, with Mike in the lead, heading towards what they all knew was the most important part of Cantor Labs--the genetics department. After turning down the first hallway, they discovered that the lights didn't work in this section of the building so they all switched on their flashlights and continued on. Upon reaching the outer door to the genetics lab, Mike pulled out his key card and slid it through the slot on the wall next to the door. Nothing happened.
"Ah shoot," said Mike. "The power's gone to the security locks too."
"The battery backup system should still be working," said Mary. "Try that."
"That's right," said Mike, pressing a button on the side of the card slot.
Upon Mike's pressing of the button, the latch was released and he opened the card slot. Inside there were two red buttons on either side. Mike simultaneously pressed them and a red LED lit indicating that power was restored to the security lock. He closed the slot back up and slid his card through. The bolts inside the door slid back with a clunk. Mike pulled the door open and the five of them entered the room. The room that they entered was a junction with three doors. The one on the right led to the freezer where the specimens were kept, the one directly ahead of them led to the experimentation section, and the door to the left was the DNA identification and analysis section. The group split up to search the labs there. Joe and Mary went to go investigate the freezer, Mike and Taylor went into the identification and analysis section, and Roger went to see what damage there was in the experimentation section. Roger opened the door and went inside. He tried the light switch on the wall to see if the lights worked. The lights flickered on, illuminating the lab with dim light. There were a few stools that had fallen over, along with some beakers, microscopes, and some other miscellaneous items. It seemed as if this part of the building hadn't taken as much damage as some of the other parts. Roger looked at the lights on the ceiling. None of the fixtures were broken so he assumed that some of the power just wasn't getting to the room. The only thing to be done here was to straighten the stools and set a few things back upright. Roger heard a noise that sounded like it came from one of the air ducts. The noise sounded almost like a moaning sound. Wonder what that was. He shrugged it off and went back to what he was doing. He cleaned up a little and went back out of the room. Mary and Joe came out of the freezer room.
"How's the damage in there?" asked Roger.
"Not bad," said Joe. "The backup power supply has kicked in so luckily nothing will go bad for a couple of weeks, but we should have power long before that."
"Okay, good," said Roger. "The experiment lab didn't take much damage either."
Mike and Taylor walked out from the analysis lab.
"Well, things are pretty clean in there," said Mike.
"Same with the other two," explained Roger.
"Okay, good," said Mike. "At least the real important stuff is safe. Let's go check out the other sections of the building."
The group split up and the five of them went off to go individually inspect different parts of the building. Roger headed off to the lab where he had been working the night before. He hoped that his rejuvenation formula hadn't been destroyed. He got to the lab and went inside. He searched around with his flashlight and saw that there was quite a bit of damage in this lab. Some, but not all, of the beakers containing the formula had fallen off of the shelves and broken on the floor.
"Oh great," said Roger, rolling his eyes, "more good news."
Some of the animal experiment carcasses had fallen off the shelves and some of the bags they were in had torn open. Roger got a pair of gloves and put them on and began picking up some of the carcasses and putting them back on the shelves. After they had all been put back on the shelves, Roger spotted an empty bag lying nearby. Some of the rejuvenation formula was on it. Roger picked it up and put it in the trash. He finished cleaning up the lab in about a half an hour. He was about to go to another lab when he noticed that the cover to the air vent in the room was on the floor. It had apparently been shaken off by the quake. He walked over to it and picked it up. He placed it back on the air vent opening in the wall, just above the floor. He left the room to go help out in some of the other labs. Careful not to step on any of the shards of broken plastic and glass that littered the floors of the hallways, Roger made his way toward the lab that Taylor was working in. Suddenly, he heard the noise that he had heard before while he was in the DNA experiment lab. He stopped and listened for it. There was the noise again. Roger couldn't make out what it was, but it didn't sound like a noise that the air conditioning units should be making. Roger quickly made his way over to the lab where Taylor was and went inside.
"Taylor," said Roger, "I think that something's wrong with the air conditioning system."
"What makes you say that?" asked Taylor, turning around.
"There's some noises coming from the ducts that sound kind of funny. I think it may have gotten damaged in the quake.
"Maybe, but I don't think so because the temperature in here and the other labs is what it should be. Maybe you should go check the main unit and control system just to be sure."
"Good idea," said Roger. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Roger left the lab and headed in the direction of the main unit. He kept hearing the noise as he walked. Sometimes it would be louder than others. He clicked on his flashlight as he entered an area of the building where the lights had been knocked out. Upon reaching the main unit, he inspected it and things seemed to be working as though it had never been through the earthquake. He opened up the main control panel and all the LEDs and displays indicated that the system was functioned normally. He closed it up and went back to the lab.
"It seems to be working fine," said Roger.
"I thought so," said Taylor. "I think it's just your imagination. Being in the dark like this, your mind can just go berserk sometimes."
There was the noise.
"See? That's it!"
Taylor stopped cleaning and listened for the noise with Roger. There it was again.
"You're right, it does sound kind of funny," said Taylor with a puzzled look on his face, "I wonder what it is?"
There it was again.
"Sounds pretty close," said Taylor.
Taylor walked over to the air vent and listened for the noise again. He didn't hear it. Instead, there was a hissing noise coming from the vent. Bewildered, Taylor put his head down near the vent so he could hear the noise better. The hissing sounded like it was somewhere in the vent not far away. Taylor got up and walked over to a bench where his flashlight was and picked it up. He walked back over to the vent and pulled it off. He clicked on his flashlight and shined it inside the vent. As he looked inside there were two unmistakable circles gleaming back at him. Taylor jumped a little from the surprise. He looked back in the vent.
"Looks like some kind of animal got in there somehow," he said.
"An animal?" asked Roger. "How the heck would an animal get in the air ducts?"
"I don't know," said Taylor, "maybe there's a hole in the building from the earthquake.
The animal made a noise that sounded like a scratchy meow coming from a cat with very weak lungs.
"Heck," said Taylor, "it's a cat."
Taylor tried to coax the cat from the air duct.
"Here kitty, c'mon kitty, c'mon, just come on out of there."
The cat moved forward a little.
"That's it kitty, come on out of there."
The cat moved forward a little more.
"Yea, c'mon kitty, just come--"
Taylor's voice was cut off as the cat sprang forward and leapt toward his face. With a hissing noise, the cat slashed at Taylor's cheek, leaving bright, red lines across it. His mask was knocked to the side a little by the cat's slash. Taylor quickly stood up and backed away. Roger and Taylor looked at the cat that had just emerged from the air duct. The cat was unlike any cat they had seen before. Decrepit, frail, and its body was only covered with a couple of patches of fur. The cat's eyes were a dull yellow in color and the pupils were wide. The cat's claws which were a couple of inches in length were unsheathed. "What the heck is that?" said Taylor, fixing his mask again. "I've never seen a cat like that before."
"It looks like one of the cats from the lab," said Roger.
"That's ridiculous," said Taylor, "those cats are all dead!"
Taylor backed a few steps away as the cat began making its way toward him.
"I think we should find something to capture it in," said Roger.
"Yeah, but what? That thing is vicious!"
Taylor backed away some more as the cat kept walking toward him.
"Let's get out of here first and then decide what to do," said Taylor.
Roger opened the door and just as Taylor was about to walk to the door, the cat sprang from the ground and attached itself to his chest. Taylor cried out in pain as the feline's long claws and teeth dug into his chest.
"Get it off!" screamed Taylor. "Get it off!"
Roger quickly ran over to Taylor and grabbed the cat and pulled it off of him and flung it away. Taylor cried out again from the pain of the withdrawal of the cat's claws and teeth. The cat flew to the other side of the room and skidded across the tiled lab floor leaving streaks from it's bloody paws. It quickly regained it's composure and started back toward Roger and Taylor. They ran out the door, slamming it behind them. Taylor grabbed his chest and groaned with pain.
"Taylor, are you okay?"
Taylor winced a little with pain.
"I think I'll be alright, but I need to clean myself up."
They started off to find a health kit in one of the other labs.
"That sucker's vicious," said Roger.
"Yea, tell me about it. What's with that thing anyway? It's not like any cat I've ever seen."
"Well, I said it looked like one of the cats from the lab," said Roger.
"I know, but those cats are dead, Roger. That cat is alive. Remember, there's a difference."
"I don't know, maybe it's not, but all I--" Roger stopped for a moment. "Wait a minute."
Taylor looked at him with a quizzically.
"When I was cleaning up my lab, some of the formula that I've been working on had gotten into contact with one, maybe more of the lab cats. One of the bags was open and there was no cat inside."
"Roger, what are you saying?" Taylor eyed him cautiously.
"I'm saying that I think that the thing we just saw in there is a lab cat brought back to life by the formula."
"That's crazy," said Taylor with a twinge of uncertainty in his voice. "That formula didn't work and you know it."
"Didn't it? When I left last night, the last test I did produced some interesting results indicating that it might have been a working or close to working formula. And I think we have just witnessed the first creature to be exposed to and brought to life by it."
They found a lab and went inside.
"I don't know Roger," said Taylor, shaking his head, "it just doesn't sound possible.
Taylor opened a health kit and got out some antiseptic and bandages. He opened his shirt to reveal his bloodstained chest.
"Taylor, do you have another explanation for what we've just seen?"
Taylor paused for a moment.
"No," he cleaned some more blood off his chest and applied some antiseptic, "I don't."
"Well, I think until we can find a concrete answer, I think that's what we'll just have to accept that it is."
"How do we kill it?"
"Taylor!" said Roger with surprise. "We can't kill it, this is a major breakthrough!"
"Look what it did to me, Roger, take a good look!"
"No buts!" shouted Taylor. "That thing is a vicious animal that has got to be put down. If your formula really does work, it won't matter, will it?"
"I guess not," said Roger, disappointed.
They heard the noise.
"Great," said Taylor, "it's in the air ducts again."
"We need to find some way of trapping it," said Roger.
"Well, first of all we need to get the others and tell them that this thing is alive and inside the building."
"Yeah," said Roger, "you stay here and I'll go find them.
Roger left the lab and Taylor finished bandaging his wounds. He looked around the lab to see if there was anything that could be used to kill the cat. He walked over to one of the counters and opened up a drawer. There were several different types of dissection tools inside. Taylor pulled six scalpels from the drawer and placed them on the counter. He spotted a push broom in the corner on the lab and got it. He unscrewed the head of the broom and laid the handle on the counter with the scalpels. In another drawer, Taylor found a roll of surgical tape. One by one, he taped the scalpels to one end of the broom handle. The finished product was a multi-headed spear of sorts. This should do the trick, he thought. Minutes later, Roger returned with Joe, Mike, and Mary.
"What's that?" asked Joe, pointing to the spear.
"Just a little protection," said Taylor. He pointed to his chest. "I don't want this to happen again."
"I think it would be a good idea for all of us to have a weapon of some sort," said Mike.
"Right, that animal is a potentially deadly animal," said Roger, "and we need to be ready for it."
They heard the noise.
Mike, Roger, Joe and Mary gathered up some more knives, scalpels, and other sharp objects and attached them to other broom and mop handles. They decided the best way to track the animal down was by splitting up into two groups of two and three. Joe, Mike and Mary went off into one section of the building while Roger and Taylor headed into another.
"Think we ought to close up all the air vents that were opened or just leave them?" asked Roger.
"It might be good to close them up, at least that way we'll have some idea of where it is."
Roger and Taylor went into the labs, checking all the vents to see if they were open. They were careful to check each lab before entering it. They cautiously searched the labs, closing the air vents. They wielded their weapons before them as they searched. Finally the labs in their area were secure.
"Well," said Taylor, "now we just have to find out where in the air system that sucker is."
They heard some shouting from somewhere inside the building.
"Sounds like they might have found it," said Roger. "Let's go!"
Roger and Taylor rushed through the dimly lit hallways towards the source of the sound. They discovered it was coming from one of the analysis labs. They walked inside to find Joe lying on the floor next to the air vent in a pool of blood with gash marks about his face and chest. The air vent on the far side of the room was open and Mike and Mary were trying to slash with their weapons at the cat which was in a corner, hissing violently and dodging their swipes.
"Roger! Taylor!" shouted Mike. "You gotta help us! It got Joe!"
Taylor and Roger rushed over to Mike and Mary. The cat saw an open spot between the foursome and darted through it. It quickly rushed to the air vent and ran inside.
"Roger, quick!" ordered Taylor. "Close the vent!"
Roger dashed for the air vent, grabbed the cover and closed it. Their attention was quickly turned to Joe on the floor."
Taylor crouched next to him.
"Yeah," said Mike, "he's gone."
"How'd this happen?" asked Roger.
"We heard the cat inside the duct and Joe opened it. When he did, the thing jumped out at him. He dropped his weapon and we couldn't get it off him."
"Great," said Taylor, "just great. Like he deserved this."
"We need to kill that thing," said Mike, gritting his teeth.
"Roger!" shouted Taylor. "This is your fault! If you hadn't been working on that stupid formula, this wouldn't have happened!"
Roger backed away a couple of steps.
"But Taylor, I--"
"Look what happened!" shouted Taylor, pointing to Joe's body. "All because of some stupid experiment!"
"Calm down, Taylor," said Mike. "We need to keep our heads about this."
"Mike's right," said Mary, "there's a creature running around in this building that could very well do the same thing to us. We need to keep calm and just go kill it."
"Okay, let's go then," said Taylor as he got up.
He turned toward Roger.
"I'm sorry for blowing up like that, Roger. I don't know what got into me. I know that it's not your fault. That thing is just a big accident."
"It's alright, Taylor, I understand. But let's go kill the sucker."
The four went out of the lab and into the dimly lit hallway. The air in the building seemed to be breathable without the masks now so they took them off. They decided, for safety's sake, that the best thing to do would be to stay together and find the creature. They clicked on their flashlights and wielded their makeshift spears and started down the hallway. They were careful to avoid the broken glass. They walked silently as they listened for the creature that could be nearby. After close to an hour they had searched the whole building and come up with nothing. They stopped in the lobby at the front of the building.
Taylor looked around.
"Where is that thing?"
"Who knows," said Roger. "For all we know, it could be dead by now. I don't know how well my formula worked."
"Roger's right," said Mary. "That formula may only work for a short time."
"Well let's hope for the--"
Taylor's voice was cut off as the cat jumped onto his head. It had been crouched on a counter in a dark corner of the room near where Taylor was standing. Taylor cried out with pain as the cat's claws and teeth sunk into his scalp. The other three quickly dropped their flashlights. Mike began trying to slash at the cat without hitting Taylor. Taylor fell to the ground and the cat jumped off of him. It sprang toward Mike but was knocked sideways as Mike slashed with his spear at it, hitting it with the shaft. The cat landed upright and stuck to the floor as it's claws caught the carpet. It retracted what it could of it's long claws to free them of the carpet and then darted toward Mike again. Mike swung his spear as the cat jumped to him, but he missed and the cat extended its claws and dug them into him as it climbed it's way up toward his face. One of the claws dug into the upper left part of Mike's chest and blood spurted from within. Mike's eyes widened and he screamed, then slumped to the floor. The cat turned toward Mary and Roger, hissing at them.
"Stay back, Mary," said Roger.
The cat eyed them, walking slowly toward them. Roger and Mary backed away from the approaching cat. The cat suddenly sprang forward and leapt toward Roger. Mary screamed. In fear, Roger held his spear in front of him and closed his eyes. He heard an ear-splitting hiss and felt his body jolted backward. Roger opened his eyes to find the vicious cat skewered on his spear. The blades had run from the chest of the cat all the way through its back. There was no blood anywhere on the cat, except on the claws and mouth with which it had attacked Roger's co-workers. Roger stood there for a moment, stunned, bewildered, and relieved all at once. He dropped the spear.
"You, got it," said Mary, almost as stunned as Roger.
They heard a slight moan from across the room. Taylor moved his arm.
"Taylor!" shouted Roger.
Mary and Roger rushed over to where Taylor was. They knelt beside him.
"Taylor, how do you feel?" asked Roger.
All Taylor could manage was a little moan.
"Mary," said Roger, "call 911."
Mary rushed off to call from her car phone. A couple of minutes later she returned.
"They're on their way," she said.
"It's too late," said Roger, looking down at Taylor, "he's gone."
But not for long, thought Roger as he clasped
the small vial of brown liquid in his hand.