The Burning
Chapter Two
By: Ted Burfield

The laboratory was filled with activity, white robed figures floating from one side of the room to another. A hurried anticipation filled the atmosphere of the room. Men and women murmured to one another, passing off small objects back and forth. In the center of the room sat two subjects, the first of their kind. To the left was a man, athletically built from years of running and swimming in the world’s top contests. His hair was a dark brown, unkempt and wild. He lay strapped down to the table, head lolled to the side from the side effects of the drugs.

To the right was a woman, a rival in the tournaments. Even in sleep her demeanor was the same: cold and competitive. She was bound much like her male friend, except rather than being on a table, she was on a platform above a coffin-like structure. The platform was raised by large thick chains attached by pulleys at the ceiling of the laboratory.

A woman of slight build walked over to the woman’s binding, rechecking the straps to make sure they were secure in all positions. A mask covered her face, only her eyes showing from behind thick goggles. Like every other person in the room, a large white robe covered the majority of her body. The upper torso of the robe hugged her body like a second skin, allowing ease of movement, but also protecting her from the dangerous chemicals in the cylinders near the subjects.

The woman moved around to the male subject, securing him tightly to the table. She glanced over him, her eyes noting where long tubes would be placed into his body to allow the safe transfer of the chemicals. It had taken the science team 10 years to come up with the solution, and she knew that if the Tribunal hadn’t stepped in and allowed for further funding, their progress would have never happened.

And now was the moment of truth. The clock above the door buzzed briefly and several of the scientists descended on the subjects like moth to a flame. Tubes of thick rubber were uncoiled and draped along the floor while sharp knives and other objects were uncovered. The doctor pulled a scalpel from the tray and glanced again at the face of the man she was about to mutilate. His eyes twitched, as if the sedative were wearing off.

“We should gas this man again. He may be waking up, and I’d hate for him to go through this awake,” the woman said as she turned to pick up the facemask.

“No, we can’t. We’ve used the most we could give him. Any more and it will nullify the catalyst,” explained an old doctor, the founder of the project. He patted the woman’s hand, a compassionate smile in his eyes. “We’ve come too far for a mistake now. He won’t suffer. I promise you that, Miss Day.”

The words had a soothing affect, but she wasn’t sure. She placed the facemask back into its cradle and then returned her attention to the man. “It’ll be a shame to lose him. He won five trophies in the last World Games just on his solo performances.”

“Yes, I know. And the woman was no less spectacular. It’s an honor to work on them. They both have raw talent and good minds. They’ll be fine. We’ve gone over everything twenty times already.”

Miss Day nodded and then slowly began the incisions on the man while the older, wiser Doctor Kath-li began on the woman. Miss Day still didn’t understand why a person would want to put their life on the line for an experimental body enhancer. Perhaps the Tribunal had something to do with coercing these two fine young specimens into the decision they made. Day wouldn’t put it past them. They were the most influential law enforcers of the planet, and if they wanted something, they got it.

“Let’s keep these cuts as clean as possible. We want to put these two youngsters back together without even a scar on them,” spoke Kath-li with a soft, detached voice. Both doctors moved down the scantily clad forms of their subjects, opening the circles. As they finished one, a tube was placed in, pushed a half-inch into the body at the key areas.

Miss Day kept a close eye on her subject, noting his eyelid twitching with each cut. He wasn’t awake, but he was no longer under the full influence of the drug. This man’s constitution was incredible, she thought. No wonder he was such a highly respected athlete. As she finished with the last cut, Kath-li had already begun the calculations they needed to proceed.

“Okay. Cayo-Tay’s drip will be at twenty milligrams per surge. Each surge should be spaced apart every two seconds until the canisters are empty. The woman, Sayli May, will be at 15 milligram surges spaced between every three seconds.” Kath-li glanced up at Miss Day who was inputting the calculations into the devices attaching the canisters together.

“And remember, people, let’s keep this spillage of fluid to a minimum. If these two compounds mix, we won’t be alive to tell the Tribunal we made a mistake.”

The ten or so scientist filtered around the room, cleaning up the supplies, knowing that with the rate that the two subjects will receive the compounds, it will be 5 hours before they find out if it worked or not.

A low humming filled the room as the generators switched on. Lights blinked on the consoles over the 10 canisters on either side of the room. The Canisters attached to Cayo-Tay began their liquid surges. A dark orange fluid was strung through the tubes, filtering into the athlete’s body. The veins in his exposed skin began to glow with the intrusion of the foreign liquid. He groaned slightly, head rolling slightly as if a bad dream was at the front of his mind.

The other patient began her descent into the liquid-filled coffin. When she was completely submerged with a breathing apparatus over her mouth, the tubes were activated. The liquid was barely noticeable as it permeated into the woman’s skin. Her compound was a clear, watery substance. The effect, however, was the same as with her companion. Her veins began their glow, except a light blue rather than an orange.

All the scientists except for Miss Day and her assistant left. The lights were dimmed to the minimum and the note taking began.

The first half of the procedure was uneventful for the most part. Day’s assistant noticed a small decrease in water temperature from inside the Sayli-May’s containment. The pulses from the compound kept her veins a light blue color, tracing all over her body noticeably. Her body had begun to shiver slightly, but not enough to warrant too much attention. The slight movement caused only the slightest bout of disruption along the surface of the water.

Beneath the water, her hair had taken to floating aimlessly around her face, as if reaching for the surface only to fail time and again. The silken black strands cascaded around her features as is moved by their own accord.

On the table beside Sayli-May, the conditions were a bit more pronounced. Cayo-Tay’s body had begun to vibrate, the straps clicking against the table with each twitch. His eyes were clenching and releasing, but stayed closed. Day kept her eyes on the man, fearing he may actually be feeling each surge of fluid into his body. His muscles were tensing, threatening to dislodge the tubes from beneath his skin.

Day had periodically tightened the straps more, but made sure that the circulation to his extremities wasn’t blocked. The assistant continued taking notes, keeping a closer eye on the female since Day kept her vigil over the male.

As the last remaining minutes of the fourth hour kicked in, the containers were humming loudly, forcing every last drop of compound through the tubes. The scientists had made their ways back in to assist and read over the notes of the two watchers. Kath-li stood between the subjects, going over the vitals. Cayo-Tay had developed a fever from the procedure, but the good doctor wasn’t worried. What worried him was the unexpected effects fluid had on the woman.

A thin veil of slush sat on the surface of the ever-freezing water. Sayli-May lay practically floating, only staying anchored down by her bindings. Her skin was a perfect complexion, not showing any indication of being waterlogged. The blue coloration in her veins had subsided, but was still visible. Her hair had ceased its movement, but instead sat in wild tangles over her face, frozen in place.

It was then that the completely unexpected happened. At exactly the same time, 2 minutes before the five hours were complete, both subjects began to seize. Their bodies jerked wildly from side to side, their heads whipping every which way. Their veins grew brighter, their muscles tensing to their fullest. Cayo-Tay shook tremendously under his bonds, his back and legs whipping off the table like a caged animal. Freezing water splashed against the sides of Sayli-May’s tank, soaking the scientists that were near.

“Hold him down!” screamed Kath-li. He turned to shove against Cayo-Tay’s chest, but a blast of searing heat sent him backwards. The heat was immense, as if he had walked directly into a blast furnace. His breath was knocked from his lungs, causing him to gasp in the burning heat. He heard the sounds from behind him in Sayli-May’s tank.

It was the sound of water quickly icing over. The crackling sound behind him was only the beginning of it. He felt the icy grip on the back of his neck, and the two intense temperatures caused his hair to stand on end within the robe. Light-headedness was quick to overtake him, his body unable to handle the two extremes at the same time.

As several of the larger men rushed to hold the heated body of Cayo-Tay down, Kath-li slumped gingerly to the ground. A mist began to form in the middle of the room where the super heated air and the super cooled air met. Kath-li felt hands on him, but disorientation kept him from recognizing the thickly muscled fellow that began to drag him from between the subjects.

He gasped out as loudly as he could, his mouth parched dry, “Don’t stop. Few more minutes.”

Miss Day was torn. Her boss wanted to turn off the consoles. She wanted to stop the obvious suffering the two people were going through. But there were only a few minutes left. Stopping now when they were so close to finishing would mean the end of her career. So she made up her mind quickly. She ran to the Kath-li and helped drag him to a far corner of the room. “Are you okay, sir? Are you alright?” She turned to the man that had dragged Kath-li from the epicenter of the phenomenon. “Get me a heated blanket and several bottles of water. Now!”

The man rushed off. Moments passed and he returned with the supplies. Day was quick to press Kath-li’s body against the wall with the blanket between him and the wall, wanting to heat up the man’s back quickly. She practically tore the lid of the bottle off and held it to his lips, letting the man drink what he needed.

It was then that the clock struck 5. Buzzing filled the room as the consoles over the canisters shut off after siphoning the last of the compound through the tubes into the bodies of the two subjects.

Cayo-Tay and Sayli-May’s bodies slumped in their respective atmospheres. The heat given off by Cayo-Tay began to subside, but not before thawing the ice within Sayli-May’s container enough for the scientists to chisel a large enough hole to pull the woman from.

Miss Day stood, her eyes looking between the two figures. Despite the heat given off by Cayo-Tay, not a single bead of sweat lay on his body. “Alright. Let’s get these two patched up and placed into the recovery room. I want it done within the hour. Move!”

The corridors were white, sterile, and quite dull. The only movement was from the occasional orderly moving from room to room. From the inside, the place looked very much like a hospital, but those working there knew it was just another floor of the science research and development wing of the Tribunal’s building. Most of the rooms were empty, except for a few that were subbing as rooms for those hurt during the experiments.

Two rooms at the back of the hall were the main ones, each retrofitted with a main room that connects through a clean room. A person would have to walk into the clean room, become sterilized, and then put on a suit before walking into the patient’s main room. Outside of the main room was a large one-way mirror, showing the inside of the room to all viewers, but keeping the view of the hallway from the patients. Beside the windows were temperature gauges showing the room temperature as well as the temperature around the patients.

Dr Kath-li stood at the end of the hall, making notes in his pad while he observed Cayo-Tay. The man had recovered remarkably in the two days since the procedure. He often spoke of being cold, but Kath-li knew that had nothing to do with the temperature of the room.

Much the opposite of Cayo-Tay’s success, Sayli-May’s body was having trouble with the intrusion of the chemical compound introduced to her. She had fallen into cardiac arrest three times in the past two days, however she showed a small amount of recovery. Miss Day was concerned for the young woman’s life, but Kath-li knew she would be all right. After all, the Tribunal wouldn’t have sent a defective specimen.

He continued to observe Cayo-Tay, watching the sleek man pacing in his small room. It had taken a full day for the glow in his veins to dissipate. The dose had been pressing the limits of the young man’s ability to absorb it into his system. His muscles were tensing, no doubt from his anxiety. That was understandable, but until they made sure neither patient would died from exposure to the outside air, or that no one would die from being near the patients, they would have to stay confined to their rooms.

As if on cue, Cayo-Tay turned to the mirror and spoke loudly. “You could at least have gotten me a bigger room!”

Kath-li couldn’t help but grin. He pressed the button on the intercom and spoke calmly to Cayo-Tay. “Sorry. We did the best we could.”

Cayo-Tay continued to pace, his arms crossing over his bare chest. “How’s Sayli? An orderly told me she went into cardiac arrest again last night.” Concern lined his voice, but Kath-li figured it was concern for a mutual competitor during the Games.

“She’s alive. She still hasn’t regained consciousness.” Dr Kath-li placed his pad down on a small end table and sat in a chair, watching the nervous movements of the man inside the room. “You really should calm down, Tay. You’ll be fine. Your body has shown a marked regenerative ability on the last set of tests. You’re doing remarkably well. It’s astonishing really.”

“Yeah yeah. So I hear.” He sighed and shook his head, the brown hair tussling around his forehead and ears. The follicles had tingled for the majority of the two days of his “imprisonment”, and from looking in the mirror he had seen that it had started growing an orange color at an alarmingly fast rate. The doctor calculated that within the month, the young man’s brown hair would all but be gone and only the fiery orange would remain.

It was very interesting indeed.

“Will I at least be able to go to your training facilities soon? The Games will be starting up again in a few months and I’d rather not lose my touch.”

The good doctor didn’t reply. He had turned his attention to Sayli-May whom lay in her bed, eyes open and staring at the ceiling. Her breathing was normal, coming in deep, rhythmic breaths. A slight smile touched to corner of his lips as he pulled a communications device from his lab coat pocket. There was a slight click as he pressed in the button on the side. “Miss Day, she’s awoken.”

“What?!” The reply was a bit garbled, but the tone was clear enough. “Did I just hear you right? The subject’s awake?”

“That’s correct, Miss Day. Sayli-May is awake, and is currently starting to sit up in her bed.

“I’ll be right there.” He heard scuffling over the comm. device and smirked slightly as it clicked off. He tucked it back in his pocket as his other hand reached up to press the intercom button on.

“She’s awake?”

Kath-li nearly jumped out of his skin at the unexpected voice from behind him. He turned and stepped back slightly, Cayo-Tay standing directly on the other side of the mirror, his face bare millimeters from the surface. He stared out, as if directly at the doctor.

Kath-li stammered briefly before shuffling over to the intercom and pressing the button in. “You heard me?”

“Barely. It was like you were talking through… well… through a wall.” A slight smirk alighted his lips briefly. “But, she’s awake? Sayli-May’s awake?”

The doctor nodded to himself, astounded at the new development. “Uh… yes.” He turned back briefly to witness the bare woman pushing herself off of her bed. “She just stood up.”

Down the hall, Miss Day was running, her hair a mess of tangles from having been woken up. Her cloths were all askew as she rushed down the hall while pulling her lab coat on. “How does she look?”

Kath-li grinned, letting the button go from the intercom as he turned towards Sayli-May’s room. “She looks fine. Could use some cloths.” He trailed off his sentence, his mood brightening by the minute. These new compounds would put his name in all the books, in all the literature. He would be one of the most famous scientists ever.

From behind him, Cayo-Tay spoke up, knocking briefly on the glass. “Hey, before you give her cloths… I want some pictures.”

Day stopped short between the rooms, looking incredulously at Cayo-Tay through the glass. “You’re such a p—.” And then it dawned on her. He had heard Kath-li without the intercom being on.

Suddenly her legs felt weak. She pressed her arm against the wall while Kath-li moved over to her to help her into a chair. He chuckled, patting Miss Day on the shoulder as he returned his attention to Sayli-May. She was standing at the mirror, her hand pressed against the glass firmly. She looked around slowly, her sky blue eyes taking in her surroundings.

“Where am I?”

Kath-li walked over to the intercom and pressed the button. “You’re at the Tribunal R&D center, Miss May. Do you remember why you were here?”

She shook her head, her eyes showing the confusion. The woman pulled her hand away and turned her back to the window. She walked back towards her bed, but Miss Day wasn’t nearly interested in that. What her eyes were riveted on was the condensing imprint of the woman’s hand on the window. The size, each finger, was visible as a halo of where Sayli-May had pressed her hand up against the glass. She continued to watch it, mouth agape until it disappeared.

Day cleared her throat and then stood. She spoke as Kath-li held in the intercom button. “I’m going to bring you something to wear, Miss Day. It will be a few moments, though.”

The other woman didn’t acknowledge she heard anything. She simply lay back down on the bed and closed her eyes.

Kath-li shrugged and motioned for Day to go into the clean room. He let the button go and returned his attention to Cayo-Tay who was using a bolted bar above the window as a pull-up bar. “Do you have to do that?”

“It’s either this or die frozen. Can’t you turn up the heat a bit?”

“We’ve turned it up as much as we can, son. Just try to calm down. Don’t over-exert yourself. We have a set of tests for you when the morning shift comes in, so we’ll need you fresh and rested.” Kath-li picked up his notepad and jotted down the happenings inside Cayo-Tay’s room as well as the temperatures on the meters.

“You say you’re cold now. How did you feel when you slept last night?”

Cayo-Tay stopped his workout long enough to think it over. “I felt warm, I guess. When I was asleep anyways. When I woke up, I was frozen. It was like someone had me drink gallons of ice water.”

The doctor thought quietly while the sterilization process began behind him. “And how did you sleep?”

Tay dropped off the bar and swept his hands through his dampened hair. “Alright I guess. I had nightmares about the procedure. About stuff like that.” He started to stretch his body as if getting ready for a strenuous aerobic exercise.

“Your chart shows that your room’s temperature rose considerably as you were sleeping. Perhaps something to do with your dreams; how your body was reacting.” Kath-li continued tapping his pen against his chin while he thought. He enjoyed talking to Tay without needing the intercom. It made things much simpler.

“I see.” The athlete had dropped to his hands and was pushing up from the ground, his biceps bulging along with the muscles on his back. “So you’re saying that… When I’m more stressed, I let off more heat?”

“Pretty much, yes.” Kath-li smiled to himself, jotting down a few more notes. As Tay worked out, Kath-li noticed there was a steady decrease of temperature around the patient. “I think now that you’re controlling yourself, you’re taking more control over this… heat flux. How are you feeling?”

“Warmer now,” Tay grunted out as he continued to push up.

“As I thought. I’ll have my assistant make a schedule up for you to visit the gym. If Sayli-May’s up to it, I’m sure she would like to join you.”

“Can you tell me how she is? I haven’t heard Miss Day since she went into the clean room.”

It was amazing how much this man knew. It’s like his higher functions were all becoming attuned at a higher sensitivity. Kath-li was astounded at the success of his procedure. He grinned widely, knowing that he would grin until the day he died.

He turned towards Sayli-May’s room, but he wasn’t expecting what he saw. His smile vanished immediately as he fumbled in his pocket for the comm. device. He screamed at the top of his lungs into the device and down the hall, “HELP!!”
Review this story
Review the story
Story # - L | M - Z | Authors