Episode 69 - The perception of ugliness is a moral test

A month has passed since I last spoke with Malloy. I was supposed to meet her last Saturday back at Penn’s Cave but for obviously reasons, I totally blew her off. I want to believe that she will come get me out of this stinking place, but as days go by, the harder it gets. I hardly recovered from last week’s beating, when the guards showed up at my cell again. My lips were still a little swollen and the bumps on my head had finally disappeared. I doubted that I could withstand another beating by Dr. Johnson. Decided to make the best out of the situation I felt the knife given to me by the female Doctor in my pocket and walked out of my cell as ordered. But to my surprise, I got my hands cuffed right away. My hopes of getting out of here alive were becoming even slimmer. Following a narrow corridor, the guards led me through a series of rooms. The fact that they were taking a different route made me nervous. After walking for a few minutes we entered a hallway were I spotted the elevator entrance for the level we were on. According to the number on the elevator door, we were five stories bellow the ground. I secretly tried to memorize its location. We kept walking. I had no idea how big the underground facilities were. The Mulberry Ridge Laboratory was quite small from the surface, but underground, it spread for miles. We went through another corridor with one of the guards keeping his rifle’s muzzle tight against my back. Straight ahead someone waited for us at the end of the hallway: Dr. Ivanov! Wearing white scrubs and a surgical mask, the Doctor greeted me in a very polite way: - Mr. Harris! It’s a pleasure to meet you. Today is a very important day for us. I’m glad you could join us. - I stood in front of the doctor in disbelief as I glanced around the lab. On his desk I saw a copy of the National Geographic Magazine featuring The Mulberry Ridge article on the cover. - I believe you already met Dr. Walker - said Dr. Ivanov pointing behind me. I turned around, but before I could acknowledge the female doctor’s presence, something bigger called my attention: Ben! Or at least what was left of him! My eyes got watery in anger. Inside of a water tank my old friend stood motionless. His face disfigured, his hair gone. But what scared me the most were Ben’s eyes: his irises were now a thin black sliver accompanied by a sinister blank stare. - He can’t see you John…the window is tinted from inside. - said Dr. Walker from her chair, almost embarrassed. - You are looking at the future of space travel, Mr. Harris! After fifteen years of research, we finally have our first human capable of hibernation. - said Dr. Ivanov smiling. I was trembling with indignation. I tried to reach the pocket knife inside my pocket, but the cuffs made it impossible. - Are you out of your mind? - I asked the doctor enraged. Dr. Ivanov, indifferent, moved his wheel chair closer to the window. - You, see Mr. Harris… Your friend Benjamin, or AHP-4 (an Autonomous Hibernating Pilot), is now capable of surviving the most harsh environments without the aid of a suit and hardly any equipment. His vision was augmented along with his ability to hear. AHP-4’s muscle mass has increased a stunning 30%. By introducing genetically mutated turtle DNA to Mr. Kaplan’s blood stream, we not only created a super human, but a human able to travel for many years in space. There’s only one problem…We haven’t been able to control AHP-4’s feelings quite well yet. And that’s were you come in, Mr. Harris. I was wondering if you would like to join our team of experts. AHP-4 and you were friends in the past, perhaps you could convince him to cooperate a little more…- finished the doctor. My mind went in circles. - What was he asking me? This is nuts! - I thought to myself while staring at Ben through the window. So Ben was still aware of himself… Or maybe he was still fighting to remember. In any case it would be insane of my part to join Dr. Ivanov’s efforts. I turned around and spitted out my answer: - You’re out of your mind, Dr. Ivanov! You’re wasting your time. - I said disdainfully. Just looking at Dr. Ivanov made me furious. I got really close to his face, the guards now watched me closely. - I’m gonna kill you. Just wait and see! - I told the doctor who lifted his right arm, concerned. One of the guards hit me in the back with his rifle, bringing me to my knees. - So that’s how it’s going to be, ah? Fine! Take Mr. Harris back to his cell. Make sure to take Dr. Walker along. She’s been up to no good. - said Dr. Ivanov, moving his wheel chair. Dr. Walker let out a surprised squeal, holding her hand to her mouth. The guards quickly pointed their guns towards the female doctor. I just watched unable to do a thing. - Get me Dr. Johnson when you’re done! - said Dr. Ivanov to the guards, while exiting the room. One of the guards tied Dr. Walker’s hands. She didn’t resist. I took a last look at Ben and the guards pushed us out of the lab. Standing by the door, Dr. Walker cried out a few words: - We’re doomed, John -

by Corporal John Harris, February 22, 2007