CHAPTER ONE

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THE SOUND OF Dr. Vanderwall's dress shoes clacking against the linoleum floors is the only sound that fills the crushing silence. His strides are long and purposeful, a great contrast to the constant turmoil stirring in his chest.

He steps into the elevator and presses the button for Level 5. His arms rest loosely by his sides, his shoulders straight, posture tall and imposing. The doctor's cool grey eyes stare holes in the metal doors before him, his brow set in determination.

While he seems the epitome of professionalism and leadership on the outside, doubt and anxiety swirl in his chest. The result of the next few moments could be the end of his career, if not his life. No, he can't let that happen, not when so much depends on him. Not when she is depending on him.

The doors open, and he resumes his pace in the opposite direction of the cells. Turning right down the hallway, he comes to the door at the very end of the hall: the conference room.

This room used to be where he held all the power--where he put fear into others--not the other way around. What lay behind that door could be the end of everything.

The project he spent years on has failed him, and now he must face the consequences of that failure. All because of that stupid girl.

He places his now sweaty palm on the door handle, pressing down and opening the door. He is greeted by the familiar contemporary room he has spent so much time in.

The only other occupant of the room is General McManus, the true head of The Tekula Project.

"It has been a while, has it not?" The General says, his voice gruff and deep, everything you would expect of a long-time military man.

"It has," the doctor stiffly replies.

"I had hoped it would be longer, but it seems some unfortunate events have required my attention."

The doctor drops his chin only slightly, but it doesn't go unnoticed by the General. Dr. Vanderwall does not respond.

"You let the girl and the subject escape, and you did not pursue them?" The general asks, setting his burning gaze on the stressed doctor.

"We could not risk exposure of the project. And besides, we no longer require the subject. We have all the information we need," Dr. Vanderwall says with false confidence.

"Is that so? The entire future of modern warfare is riding on this project, and you say you no longer require the only living source in existence?"

The doctor swallows thickly. This will either work, or it won't.

"If you follow me, I can show you how we dont need the subject."

▪▪▪

The entrance to the chamber opens, the heavy doors pulled open by two guards. Dr. Vanderwall and General McManus enter, one with relaxed confidence, the other with strained reluctance.

Multiple monitors, wires and tubes line the walls and floors, all leading in the same direction: a metal, cylindrical structure is laid in the center of the room. It is roughly seven feet long, and about three feet wide. A touchscreen is fitted on one of the desks with multiple controls and glowing lights.

The General raises a brow at the strange contraption.

"This is why we don't need the original subject. We have created a new one."

"Created a new one, how?"

The doctor smiles, his love for science momentarily silencing his fear. "We harvested multiple tissue samples from the original subject, cultivating them to replicate themselves. And that's when we realized... whatever he was, the growth rate of his cells is exponential. We knew he healed fast, but we had no idea of the possibilities. That's where we are now."

"Wait," General McManus says, silencing the eager doctor. "What do you mean by 'replicate'?"

"Cloning," is all the doctor has to say to completely capture the attention of the General.

"You. Open it," Dr. Vanderwall says to one of the guards. Obeying silently, the guard begins to type on the touchscreen.

A faint click is heard from the cylinder, another guard lifting the edge and removing what seems to be a lid from the cylinder. The hatch opens to reveal something the General never could have guessed.

There, floating in a clear substance thicker than water, with tubes and wires attached in various places, lay the future of modern warfare.

A man.

"Meet Subject Zero."

The cylinder is full of a jello-like clear substance, roughly imitating that of a cytoplasm. Tubes and wires are hooked into the man in various places, an oxygen mask placed over his mouth and nose.

The general stares in awe at the thing before him, not believing his eyes.

"This is, biologically, an exact replica of the original subject... With a few changes."

"So... I am staring at a clone? You completely cloned a supernatural being?"

"Yes, of course, and even made him better," the doctor says proudly.

"Better, how?"

"His predecessor had an... attatchment issue. That gene has been silenced through gene selection, a skill just recently cultivated by Epigenetics. Although, somewhere along the process, his hair turned white."

"Yes, I can see that," the General says, eyeing the head of white hair. "Is he awake?"

"No, he has not awoken yet. We believe his body has outgrown his brain temporarily, resulting in him being currently brain dead. It is strange, really. His growth rates are completely out of order."

"How so?" The General asks, stepping closer to the clone.

"Well, as you can see, he is a fully grown male of roughly twenty, but his brain has not completely finished growing. His brain is only about the age of that of a toddler, but spermatogenesis already started last week."

"You forget I am a military man, Doctor. I don't know what sper-genie is."

"He can reproduce," the doctor says in all seriousness.

"Do we... plan on using that? Letting him reproduce, I mean."

"Well, he isn't the only one. We have cultivated others, but they are only in the very beginning stages of embryosis. We had made a female, but the DNA didn't take. If we can create enough of them, we shouldn't have to reproduce."

"And if we can't?" The General asks, his voice low.

"I wouldn't worry about that."

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