I pressed my fingertips to my temples, rotating them in a pointless attempt to tune out the ringing that echoed inside my head. I glared up at the two-way mirror that lined the wall before me, the only thing separating me from a line of scientists that watched with focused eyes and clipboards at the ready. The ringing began then, blasting through the speakers that lined the small lab room and bouncing off the walls. I clapped my hands over my ears, crumbling to the floor as the sounds echoed through my overly sensitive ears and pierced my mind like a thousand knives.
A normal girl would have only heard something along the lines of a quiet fire alarm, but I was different. My ears could pick up the softest sound and multiply it by who knows how many. That was what this particular experiment was focused on.
"Subject 4 of Experiment 18, completed and confirmed," a robotic voice said, and the ringing was shut off. I don't know how long I lay in that heap on the floor but eventually two scientists, each dressed in blinding white lab coats, hoisted me to my feet and dragged me back into the hallway and into my private room at the end of the hall.
I fell onto my cot and the door was locked behind me. I winced as the door hit the frame with a deafening amount of noise. "Crap," I hissed between clenched teeth, cringing at the sound of my own voice.
I heard a rattling overhead, the clanging of the grate in my ceiling shaking loose.
"Shut up!" I shouted and swear I nearly blew out my ear drums. The rattling quieted slightly, and then stopped altogether as the grate was lifted away. I watched a pair of legs drop through the vent and land softly on the concrete floor below. A gentle hand reached out and pushed a section of my unruly hair out of my eyes so I could see him clearly.
"How you feeling, Squirt?" Michael questioned. His voice was softer than a whisper, but I heard it just fine.
"Peachy," I mumbled, sitting up so that his hand dropped. "And don't call me that."
He only smirked. I yawned and stretched my hands toward the ceiling, then crossed my legs indian-style and stared at him with unblinking eyes. He stared back.
"Josh is coming," he commented, breaking eye contact and leaning back so he rested against the wall of my room. I heard the quiet shuffling of Josh as he crawled his way through the vent only a few moments later, and then saw him drop through the ceiling. He grinned at us, slapped me a high-five and fell into a squat next to Michael.
"Do I have to whisper?" he questioned me quietly as he shook dust out of his curly blonde hair. I nodded and he winked.
"You got dust in my eye," Michael muttered, rubbing at his socket. Josh shrugged and leaned back on the balls of his feet, looking at me intently.
"How goes the experimenting, Maria?" he questioned.
It was my turn to shrug. "As it always does: lots of ringing, blaring, and shouting."
"Sounds better than how mine went," Josh muttered. "I was introduced to a new chemical today. Say hello to hydrochloric acid, Joshie! I mean, seriously, just because they can't burn me doesn't mean I can't smell it."
Josh's skin was virtually indestructible, or so they think. He's been tested by hundreds of acids already and not one seems to be able to burn him, plus no blade or bullet has ever penetrated his skin, though some have left him with some pretty bad bruises.
"How about you, Michael," Josh asked, turning toward the 17-year-old. "Anything interesting happen today?"
"I learned that they really hate you, buddy. They would dump you in a vat of toxic waste if they thought it would kill you, but their all afraid you'll just get more super powers," Michael answered.
"Really?' Josh asked, his eyes wide.
He scowled and punched Michael in the shoulder. "Don't do that."
"I wouldn't if you weren't so gullible."
"We can't all read minds, Michael," I said. "Some of us just have to assume if you're telling the truth or not."
"Sounds like a lot of work to me," Michael muttered as he ran a hand through his dark hair. I rolled my eyes and laid down on my cot, folding my arms behind me head.
"Where's Adam?" I asked.
"I think he's with our friends down the hall," Josh said, motioning behind him where the lab was located. Michael sighed and shook his head sadly.
"Poor guy," I agreed. Adam was the scientist's favorite toy. He'd been here for 18 years to my 15 and they just couldn't seem to get enough of him. Day after day he would stand in the middle of that pale white room, surging electrical energy into the rods they would connect to his palms until he collapsed.
I heard something from outside my door; a soft foot fall that echoed off the empty walls of the hallway. "Someone's coming," I whispered, both Michael and Josh jerked their heads up to stare at me.
"Who?" Michael whispered.
"A woman, I think. Or a very light weight guy in heels," I answered, turning my head as the foot steps stopped at my door. "You guys should go back to your own jail cells, quickly!"
Without a single word Josh swung himself back into the vent, followed closely by Michael. The two leaned out and mouthed be careful, then quickly replaced the grate and scurried away.
I heard the jingling of keys then the click of a lock. I watched the door with curious eyes as it swung open and the owner of the footsteps stepped forward. I had been right, it was a woman. She looked like she was in her mid-40s, with chocolate brown hair that fell in ringlets to her chin, sharp features and cold eyes that made me want to bolt and run. She was well dressed in a ladies business suit, her pinstriped skirt and jacket pressed and clear of wrinkles. I was sure I looked a mess next to her, what with my wild auburn hair and crumpled hospitable gown that I was forced to wear every day.
"Hello," she said. Her voice was sharp and business-like, cutting through the air like a knife. I flinched, it was loud to.
I saw movement behind her and my eyes focused on a tall man in a black suit and sunglasses, a curly black wire ran from his ear to the collar of his shirt. Next to him was another man, who looked nearly exactly as the same except he had hair.
The woman had noticed me watching them and waved them out of sight with the flick of her wrist. I turned back to her, which she seemed pleased with.
"You are Subject 4, correct?" she asked, reading off a sheet of paper in her hand.
God, she was loud. I put my hands over my ears and glared, deciding not to grace her with an answer.
She looked baffled, until she referred back to her sheet and understanding crossed her eyes. She turned away and spoke quietly to someone I couldn't see. It was obvious that she didn't want me hearing what she was saying, but I caught it anyway.
"Strong temper. I would prefer it if she was cooperative. Are they all like this?"
"Most, Madame President." My eyes widened. The President? Here?
"Can't you program them differently?"
"They are not machines. They have free will as every living creature does."
She clicked her tongue impatiently and then nodded briskly. "Very well, bring this one so I can study her further." With that she trotted off down the hallway, quickly followed by her bodyguards.
Study me? Well I'll tell you one thing, I wasn't voting for her when I turned 18. A scientist stepped forward and motioned another to follow. I recognized him, with his wiry gray hair and overly trimmed eyebrows. He was the one who usually ran my experiments. He and his buddy each grabbed one of my arms and hoisted me to my feet, they wrapped a strand of plastic around my wrists and clasped it shut by pushing it through an opening in one end, like the things they use to attach price tags to shoes. Prodding me with their hands they pushed me forward and I regrettably allowed them to direct me down the hall. I expected to go back to the lab where the experiments where usually performed but instead they pushed me through a different door and led me up a flight of stairs.
Once on the second floor we entered a completely different room that reminded me of a conference hall, with chairs and tables occupied by the President and other people in suits and some in lab coats. The floor was carpeted, which was a new one, and the lighting fixtures looked decorative instead of frightening.
I was ordered to stand against the back wall as another scientist with dark black hair greased against his head stepped to the front of the room and addressed the people in a very nervous tone.
"I thank you for being here today to witness the feats of my creations. I am Dr. Daniel Frent, leader of what we call the Mutation Project. Nearly 20 years ago I dreamed of creating a superhuman, one which was far superior to any other creature to walk this planet. For five years I studied to possibility, gathering data and researching hypotheses. Only two years ago I created a formula that would enhance any part of the body that it was injected into. I have tested it on five subjects, four of which have survived and one of which you see standing before you." He turned to stare at me with victory in his eyes. I stepped back slightly as everyone's eyes followed his and bore into me. I glanced down and studied the carpet pattern.
"I have, unfortunately, not succeeded in creating an entire super human, for my subjects have merely one physical characteristic that enhances them, but it will not take long to create this being." He turned away from me and looked back at his audience. "My only shortage is my funding. It took my lifesavings and much more to do what I have done, but there is still much more to discover. Madame President, would you wish to stop probably the most wondrous experiment of our time?"
The President pursed her lips, but said nothing.
"Show us these super humans!" a man shouted, and I cringed slightly as his voice met my ears. Professor Frent nodded once and motioned for the scientist beside him to bring me forward. The bonds on my wrists were cut and a small music player carried in. I frowned as they placed a set of headphones over my ears, knowing the pain I was in store for.
"Subject 4 is the only female that has survived of my experiments. It is true that physically a male is stronger than a female, and so most females have not been strong enough to support the formula in their body. As Subject 4 only has the formula located in her cochlea, making her hair cells increasingly sensitive to vibration, she does not have to support the extra energy.
"Subject 4's dBSPL is over 200 and her frequency capabilities have been estimated at around 55 kHz. She is capable of hearing high frequency noises otherwise incapable of detection by the normal human ear. A simple noise that seems merely annoying to us can send her nerves into a work of chaos. I shall demonstrate this to you now."
Dr. Frent pressed play on the music box and stepped back. At first I only heard a soft buzzing sound but slowly it grew louder until it seemed that someone was blowing a bull horn straight into my ears. I reached up and tried to yank the head phones off but strong hands reached out and grabbed my wrists. I sank to me knees, tears forming in my eyes as the sound grew louder still. No one in the audience moved, their gaze completely absorbed in my suffering and their eyes wide with shock as they watched me bite down hard on my lip and see the drops of blood trickle down my chin.
I thought it would never end and pleaded with God to just kill me right then. I would rather lose my life than have to endure that torture. As my thoughts were slowly being engulfed by blackness as the sounds grew louder, the headphones where suddenly wrenched away and my ears left in semi-silence as hands pressed forcefully over their openings.
I could dully hear someone yelling, a voice that I recognized. I blinked my eyes open and caught sight of freckled spattered cheeks and copper toned hair. Adam's eyes were filled with rage as spat threat after threat at Dr. Frent and his audience. The Presidents Secret Service men combined with the strength of the scientists eventually managed to pulled him away and slam him against the wall.
Dr. Frent adjusted his glasses, his face red and fuming, and turned about to face the astonished faces of assembly.
"Subject 1," he spat, pointing an accusing finger at Adam, "was my first experiment to return a reaction. He has been the most successful and the most fascinating of my subjects. The formula was injected into most of the glucose molecules in both his hands and so has enhanced his energy ability. Instead of his molecules giving off the energy in the form of heat it is much stronger. Subject 1's energy is electricity." There were many astonished gasps throughout the room and even the Presidents eyes widened slightly. Dr. Frent smiled smugly as he motioned for the scientists to bring Adam forward.
He didn't go willingly. It took four scientists to drag him to the front of the room and two more to clip the metal rods to the palms of his hands. Everyone watched in silence as wires connected to the end of the rods where clipped onto a light bulb and the space around Adam cleared. Dr. Frent nodded once at him and with a resentful glare in his eyes Adam clenched his fists around the rods and stared fixedly at the light bulb. Nothing happened at first, but slowly the bulb began to flicker. The light grew brighter and brighter, until the entire bulb was filled. Someone shut off the overview lights as it glowed even more, causing some squint or look away. I covered my eyes with my hands, knowing what was to come. A second the later the sound of shattering glass hit my ears.
The lights were flicked on and Adam went to join me by the back wall. We didn't exchange a word as Dr. Frent answered the numerous questions thrown at him from the assembly. I only looked at him once to see his brow furrowed in rage with his jaw tight and eyes slanted. I turned away and fixed my eyes on my bare feet, concentrating on remaining conscious what with the ringing still pulsing through my ears.
The chatter of voices was giving me a headache and I closed my eyes tightly in an attempt to tune them out. It didn't work well but thankfully Adam and I were led back to our cell rooms and I was free to lie down on my cot and rest in peaceful silence.