Chapter 1: Experiment 016
In a nondescript laboratory in a commonplace town, something extraordinary was taking place. The year was 2020, long after the ban on human genetic experiments was lifted. Inside the laboratory, several scientists observed and monitored their latest experiment. The test subject slumbered within a small cylindrical vat filled with a strange, life-sustaining fluid. It floated peacefully in the green liquid, surviving from the nutrients given to it through the substance. Nearby, one of the scientists was writing in a journal, carefully transcribing any and all observations.
One of his most recent entries at the time was written as follows:
October 21, 2020—18:14
Progress so far is remarkable, to say the least. Experiment 016, our most recent test subject, is responding well to the gene therapy. As of yet, no abnormalities or irregular mutations have been observed. All previous subjects had suffered as such, affected by grotesque transformations that inflicted pain upon them and ultimately caused our experiments to be terminated, labeled as a terrible failure. This has raised questions about Experiment 016. Why has this particular test subject survived, while the others were forced into the hands of death? Why has it taken the splicing of its genes so well, without aberrations or defects of any sort? This will require further study. For the moment, Experiment 016 is developing well, and, strangely enough, seems to favor a saltwater environment. When an environment similar to that of saltwater was replicated inside the vat, the subject seemed pleased, indicating the preference for it. We will continue to watch over Experiment 016, and note any other new observations as they occur.
The subject stirred slightly, tugging on the many wires and tubes that connected to various places on its body. But still it did not wake. It had spent several months in slumber, since the experiment began, and would not awaken until the experiment being performed on it was completed. The scientist responsible for writing down observations at the moment moved closer to the vat and gazed at the young woman inside with contemplative eyes. Experiment 016 was a beautiful girl, her loveliness innocent and pure with the glamour of youth. The scientist thought it a shame to risk the life of such a girl, who seemed in her late teens at most.
But the experiment was indeed going well; the girl's beauty was thus far unmarred by the DNA spliced into her own. Her skin, seemingly tinted green by the fluid she resided in for the duration of the experiment, was pale and soft. Her chest was bare, her supple breasts covered only by tendrils of long red hair, which drifted languidly around her like a bright, sleepy cloud of ruby-like color. The man that stood before her now never had the chance to see her eyes before they were closed for months of deep slumber, but he had heard from some of the other scientists that her eyes were the purest blue, like two deep pools of clear water. He could now imagine those blue pools regarding him as he regarded her, staring with curious wonder.
"Marcus!" one of the scientists called to the quiet observer. Marcus turned slightly away from Experiment 016 to face the other scientist, whose nametag read "Vincent Harris, Head Scientist."
"What is it, sir?" Marcus politely asked.
"How is our test subject?"
"She is well, sir, and resting peaceably as always."
"Any new observations?"
"Here, sir." Marcus offered Vincent his journal with two new entries documenting Experiment 016's progress.
"Ah, very good." Vincent took the journal from Marcus and read through the entries. His eyes skimmed over what had already been read, and studied the entry before the newest, which stated the following:
October 20, 2020—21:01
Experiment 016 seems more and more like the creature we have been trying to create for years, becoming of a closer likeness with each passing day. It is heartening to see such progress and development. For months, we have watched the amazing transformations that have taken place, perfect changes that match the descriptions of myth almost exactly. Her legs have now melded together completely; and upon examining the X-rays, her recently formed tail seems to have a bone structure similar to that of a fish's tail. But her tail seems stronger, nimbler than that of normal fish—though I suppose that this is only natural. More tests will be conducted to further study this. A delicate layer of fragile scales have formed on her skin, as well. But this development has occurred only on her tail. The rest of her skin remains soft and humanlike while her tail continues to develop these fishlike scales. At the time I write this, the scales are supple and translucent, colored with a slight red hue.
Another observation has been made, an unrelated, troubling one. Experiment 016, though she is supposedly under the heavy effects of sedation, appears to be shifting and stirring more often. While it is normal for one to twitch or move in his or her sleep, Experiment 016 has been doing this with increasing frequency. I fear that she may soon awaken.
Vincent eyed the last sentence of the entry with slight worry, and then read it again with growing concern. "She is . . . awakening?" Vincent asked, disbelief and mounting unease tightening his voice to a taut, strained sound.
Marcus turned his own anxious gaze away. "I didn't say that, not in those particular words, no . . . ," the young scientist stated nervously.
The elder scientist pushed past Marcus, returning the journal to the younger scientist with a forceful, angry shove. Vincent wanted to witness Marcus's written observations for himself. He stared at Experiment 016 with a fierce look, daring her to prove Marcus right. As if in reaction to his stare, the girl's tail twitched, tapping against the glass that held her. Vincent was unfazed, and continued to observe her with that angry, scrutinizing look in his dark eyes. Moments later, Experiment 016 stirred again, pulling on the wires and even disconnecting a few with the strength of her unconscious movement. "Those will have to be reconnected later," Vincent muttered, becoming somewhat worried as he kept his eyes on Experiment 016. Then—ever so slightly, for just a brief instant—her eyelids quirked as if to open and unveil those rumored deep blue eyes. Vincent stepped quickly back, startled by this.
"W-We need to give her more sedatives, immediately!" he said, an edge of worry slipping into his voice.
"But we can't, sir!" Marcus exclaimed.
Vincent turned his vexed, concerned, dark eyes on Marcus. "And why can't we?"
"She's already taken more sedation than she can handle! If we give her any more, she might never wake up, even when the experiment's over!" With the way he spoke, Marcus seemed more concerned about Experiment 016's well-being rather than the actual experiment being conducted. It was almost blasphemy in Vincent's mind; the experiment, the data was what mattered most to him.
"So be it," Vincent growled, his tone low and menacing.
Marcus sighed and relented. When his superior ordered something, he could not refuse it, lest he lose his job. Vincent then went with the young scientist to retrieve the sedatives that would let Experiment 016 rest peacefully. Marcus lingered in the doorway, reluctant to get what would ultimately put her into an eternal slumber. He did not look back at the poor girl; he'd already gotten too attached to her as it was. So he simply listened to her quietly stir in her small glass cage, the subtle noises of her dreams—or possibly nightmares, but Marcus liked to fancy that she had pleasant dreams while trapped in a less-than-pleasant situation.
His musing was interrupted with a hard thump, louder than the sounds of Experiment 016's usual stirrings. Curiosity brought his gaze back to the girl one last time.
One could only imagine how surprised he was to find a pair of blue eyes staring back at him.