296 63 24

Devon raced around his secret lab. He hated being this rushed but he had only so much time before Sierra's reception started. He'd hardly been able to sit still during the ceremony. Of all the times for one of his experiments to show promise, it had to be the day of his niece's wedding. In the little bit of time between the ceremony and the reception, he hurried over here. He was glad he had.

Devon trembled as he stood there, one hand around the microscope's eyepiece. He wasn't sure he saw what was on the slide correctly. He moved the slide around and clipped it in place, causing tiny clinking noises.

He looked again. His heart thundered. Did he finally, after all this time, have some answers? 

"Vincent. Vincent, I need you to look at this now!" 

Vincent Hartman came from the back room where he had been rummaging around on an earlier errand for his demanding boss. "Vince," he mumbled to himself. "How many times do I have to tell you? Not Vincent. Vince."

"Yeah, boss?" Vince said as he got into the lab.

Devon sighed before waving him over. "That's Dr. Shade to you."

Okay, yeah. Whatever, Vince thought, It's not like I'm going to be here long anyway. Vince was on loan from the Natural History Museum, or what he knew posed as the Natural History Museum. He'd made sure never to acknowledge that fact no matter how insane his assignments were. And they'd been getting more insane by the day.

A while ago, random odd slides had been slipped in among the quite standard slides he went through every day at the Museum. When he'd questioned his superior about them, she'd said to mark and notate them as he did all the others.

Okay, he'd thought, he could do that. No probs. When they came more frequently, Vince had slyly asked some of his workmates if they'd had any. A couple had and complained about them to their supervisor. Those particular slides did not fall under their job description.

Vince found that interesting. So they were testing them, he'd thought. Apparently, only he had passed. He wondered what would come next. If only he'd known, he would have complained too. Maybe.

His curiosity had gotten him into trouble countless times as a kid. But it was also what had pushed him to spend most of his twenties doing all the work it took to become a geneticist. So Vince didn't consider curiosity a drawback until the day he walked into the lab and saw a man in a cage right beside the other research animals.

Vincent had thought the work he was doing was theoretical up to that point, but he'd been fooling himself. Now there was no denying what it was. No denying that they were using human flesh and blood. That the man in front of him hurt from the obvious experiments he'd gone through. No denying that he begged to be released.

His museum supervisor had looked at him in that condescending way she had, with one eyebrow raised. He knew then there was no denying that his curiosity would take him to the next level and that his worry over his own hide would keep him quiet.

He remembered telling the man, "Sorry, dude." Vince's heart had fell when the man turned away and hung his head.

"It's just one man," his supervisor had said. "One man that can help all of mankind." She'd then given the man an injection to put him to sleep.

That is what Vince repeated to himself over and over. It's just one man. Until it wasn't. Until it was two and five and ten and he didn't count them anymore. Until it didn't bother his heart when he walked into a room and a new one was there. Until, instead, he was eager to learn what he could from each new one.

They came from the sea, these ocean people. From where exactly, Vince wasn't sure. But his supervisor said they were harvested from a few areas. Vince had winced at the word harvested until he remembered that he was doing to them was far worse than that.  

There were so many ways they were different from an average human. They were taller, more muscular, stronger, faster, unable to contract local diseases including the common cold, didn't have heart disease or cancer. In fact, they could subsist on just one percent use of most of their organs. Not well, but they could do it. Vincent knew because he was there as they sliced and diced them. They could survive on almost no oxygen compared to humans. Though they could drown, they'd tested and retested that many times with many subjects.

What Vincent had learned was so amazing, so exciting he wanted to share it with everyone but could share it with no one. Even his supervisor would only discuss ongoing projects. He had all this knowledge, all these secrets, bottled up inside him. They were looking for a way to out.

But every day he went home to the condo he shared with his brother, Nick, and held his tongue. That was the hardest part. There'd been a time when they had shared their scientific exploits with each other down to the tiniest detail. But no longer, Vince was afraid if he started, he wouldn't stop. So he said very, very little.

Vince knew that his brother thought this separation of work and family was his fault. Back when they shared everything, Nick, a physicist, had started talking theory as if it were fact. He spouted off about wormholes, cosmic strings, and time machines as Vince belittled him. By the end of those nights, they'd both been tipsy and argued out. To Vince, they were the best times they'd had as adults.

Now they never discussed work and Vince's guilty conscious made him wonder if his brother was hiding something from him too. 

Vince came back to the present when he heard Devon's demanding voice. "Are you just going to stand there? Come here. Look at this."

Devon stood in front of their new electron microscope. The science on DNA was new and exploding. Devon had been anxious to get this microscope hoping it would have answers that he'd been searching for all these years.

He waited for the young man to inspect the specimen he had prepared. On the outside, he appeared calm, on the inside he was wired as taut as a piano wire.

Vince bent. Not finding the eyepiece to his liking, he adjusted it and leaned in again. He was quiet for a moment. Then gasped, his breathing becoming heavier. He straightened and looked unseeing at the wall in front of him. He leaned down to the microscope again.

When Vincent rose the third time, he turned to Devon. "Their DNA. It's..."

"I know. How?"

"You're asking me? You have a lot more years in this than me."

"I've no idea. I've never seen anything like this. It's not an adaptation. It doesn't seem to have occurred naturally," Devon said.

"It's like it was shoved in there on purpose. Like they took a human and made an ocean person out of, like, a lot of different DNA." Amazed, Vincent nearly sang the words. His eyes gleamed as the new findings tumbled through his mind.

"Well, not exactly shoved. We know these things been around for generations. This was apparently done centuries ago and has been handed biologically from parent to child."

"But how? We're just messing around with this now. From what I understand, there are big celebrations because human DNA has been mixed with a pig. A pig! Nothing remotely like this." Vincent waved his hand at the microscope. "Something this sophisticated. This perfect. Look at their perfection."

"They're not perfect! It's just further proof that they are abominations. Not natural."

"Yeah, but isn't that what we're trying to do here?" Vincent had heard Devon spew so much hatred toward them, and he was tired of it. He couldn't stop from rubbing it in. "You want to take their DNA to make us somehow better. Aren't we doing what they've already done? Wouldn't that make us abominations?"

Devon caught only one part of what Vincent said. "Have they done this? To themselves? Do they have that capability?" He walked over to the empty man-sized cage and kicked it. "Just when I have the most important questions, I have no one to answer them!"

A/N: So, this chapter gives us a glimpse into the larger mystery. I hope you enjoyed it. :) If so, please vote on it. 

Sea Bound  (A Sanctuary's Aggression Novel)Read this story for FREE!