Todd had no idea what to expect, precisely. He knew that the research happening at Xigen Labs was cutting edge and wasn’t confined to one discipline, but not in his wildest dreams, could he image that he would witness something like this. The first day was devoted to onboarding with the study, signing a mountain of NDAs and liability waivers, and only then, towards the afternoon, did they get to sit down with one of the assistant researchers on the project, and learn what all of this study was about. It started with a basic rundown of genetics and evolution, some of the difficulties in studying evolving biology over generations, and then it descended into a who new set of science he had no background in. The assistant began talking about temporal vacuums, acceleration intervals–thankfully, Todd wasn’t the only one who was confused, and another intern finally raised their hand, timidly, asking the researcher to clarify what he was talking about.
It was hard to believe, but what the researchers were doing, somehow, was accelerating time–biologically–causing the beings in their study to age much more rapidly inside the field than they ever would outside of it. At last, it clicked for Todd–they were essentially brute-force hacking evolution. They would take embryos, bombard them with radiation designed to cause mutations, and then accelerate them. If the resulting sample was of interest to them for genetic research, it would be saved–and perhaps used for breeding. If it wasn’t…it would be accelerated towards its natural death in the temporal field. The interns were all silent, as they let that sink in–not only the nature of the science, but ethical quandary itself–but it wasn’t until they saw the subjects that they nearly all let out a gasp–the subjects of the study weren’t the usual mice or even monkeys–it was a human trial.
The researcher noted their surprise and shock with a rather disinterested look, and then kept talking, describing how the study had already found several promising advancements in medical gene therapies, that the subjects–due to the temporal field–rarely developed any real sense of self, and that the embryos they were using had all been slated to be destroyed anyway. Still, that wasn’t enough for some of them, and several interns asked to be dismissed and reassigned. The researcher reminded them all of the NDA, but allowed them to leave–until only Todd and two other interns remained, and the researcher smiled for the first time. “We only needed three anyway,” he said with a laugh, and continued the tour. They saw the temporal field in action, watched infants become children become adults in a matter of moments, the researchers investigating the resulting mature specimens for any interesting mutations, before sending them back into the field to age, and die.
Todd just watched it–fascinated. He’d had no idea something like this was even possible. This was science without limits; who knew what we were capable of doing down here? After that, they moved into what the researcher called “the menagerie”. The cells lining the walls were full of the most promising subjects whose mutations were most likely to yield further developments. Some of them had spawned entire new research projects themselves. Ethical quandaries aside–the possibilities were impressive. At the end of the afternoon, the three interns, Todd included, were assigned to different aspects of the project, and got to work. Things proceeded well for a few days–until something went wrong. It started with subject 86-X9.
86-X9 was a marvel of the program, a genetic jackpot. Human in appearance, his mind was capable of processing massive amounts of data in a relatively short time. The temporal field didn’t accelerate cognition–so most of the subjects never developed a mind beyond that of an infant, but 86-X9 was different. Within hours, he had begun to understand English, and could speak it by the next day. Within a week, he had learned ten languages. He was most likely smarter than the entire staff put together, and posed real danger, and so was kept isolated and confined in the deepest part of the lab. But 86-X9 was only beginning to understand his own powers, and it was on this day, that he decided to give them a test drive.
Todd heard the voice in his head, and at first, assumed it was his own. The work he had been assigned was relatively boring–sorting out data from the temporal field for research into physics–but the louder it got in his mind…the more he was certain that something was trying to talk to him. Something…wanted him to go somewhere, but where? Deeper into the lab, he realized, into the menagerie…but deeper. He knew he shouldn’t–he didn’t have authorization–but the voice…was insistent. He stole a key card at the end of the day, slipped inside, and then deeper, into the vault–where he found 86-X9. He looked like a normal person, sitting in a small cell, but Todd knew he was different. Important. The most important. This close, the voice in his mind was so loud, that it was all he could hear–his own mind was shutting down, and 86-X9’s will was all that mattered. Still, this would for, for 86-X9’s escape plan, he hoped–he was going to be taking Todd’s place, and Todd, in turn, was going to be entering the menagerie as a subject.
86-X9 and Todd went to the radiation chamber. 86-X9 would have an easy enough job warping the minds around him to believe he had been Todd all along, and with access to the intern’d mind, he knew all of his deepest secrets. The problem was that there had to be a subject take his place–and for that, Todd was going to have to change. He stepped into the radiation chamber, and 86-X9 bombarded him with a sufficient amount to trigger mutations, and then led Todd to the temporal field–give his body an additional 20 years, and the mutations would develop just fine. What sort of mutations does Todd get?
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