“Weapon X257 has completed his physical training. Take him to the Enhancement Chamber,” the training master and I bowed to each other.
The scientists had to take notes and run tests on me when I was in gorgonopsid mode, but this could only be done when I was contained safely in the Enhancement Chamber. All this was to figure out how to control my shifts. Two guards escorted me to the chamber. After I entered it, a guard injected me with adrenaline, to shift me into a gorgonopsid.
I went inside. The guards turned up all the switches and pressed the red Go button. There was a swishing and swirling noise that got louder and louder. Light flashed around me. It swung around me, blinked, and moved up and down, side to side and then stopped. The chamber hissed, the doors opened, and I climbed out.
“Am I going to see Dr. Bennett?” I asked the guards.
They nodded. I sighed with relief. It had been a long day.
Even before we got to Dr. Bennett’s office, I could smell the familiar smoky scent of his favorite jerky far off in the hallway. I knocked on his door, and he stuck his head out, smiling.
“Hi Interitum, how’s it going?” he said as I entered his office. He was the only one who called me that. Everyone else–the guards, staff, everyone, called me by my real name: Weapon X257. I sat in my usual spot by the window.
“Sorry Interitum, I just need to finish up an important conversation. Wait here and I’ll be right back.”
I nodded. Then Dr. Bennett exited, but the door was open slightly so I could hear that he was talking with the Boss.
“You have taken over Project Wristband for Weapon X257?” the Boss asked.
“Yes. As you have wished, I have completed the prototype. It is ready for trial.” Dr. Bennett replied. He held up two black wristbands.
“Return to your office and conduct the trial with the Weapon. I will be watching by camera” the Boss said evenly while stroking his spiky beard.
Dr. Bennett entered the room with a deep frown.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t see you sooner,” he said. “I’ve been working on a new project–something that can control your shifts. I know there is already research being done with the Enhancement Chamber, but to speed things up for you, I have adopted it as a personal project.”
Hope flared in my chest. If Dr. Bennett could actually find a way to control my shifts, my parents might want to see me. My ability to turn into a horrible monster– a gorgonopsid, uncontrollably, led my parents to abandon me after my first shift. They were scared of me, and only cared about themselves. Primatech told me they even adopted a new child after that, to replace me. Fortunately, Primatech, a famous scientific research company in Texas, had taken me into its secret genetic facilities to take care of me. Primatech was the only home I had ever known. They told me my shifting could change the world. There is an international war starting between OPEC and the rest of the world, and supposedly I could win it for the good side.
Every week, Primatech showed me a news video on events related to the war; the most recent one being:
“A war is approaching between OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and the rest of the world, over ownership of oil reserves” an unseen narrator said.
On the television screen armies of different countries were preparing for war; stocking up on supplies and aiming weapons of mass destruction at each other.
“According to international authorities, OPEC is stealing oil from other countries, undercover” the narrator said.
A mob of locals waved signs of protest and screamed wildly.
“OPEC is going to lose this war!” a young man exclaimed.
“Down with OPEC! Let’s burn their secret bases to the ground!” an old woman screeched.
“I hear they’re doing illegal genetic testing on humans!” a man whispered.
Primatech is part of an organization that wants to stop OPEC.
So far, it has been too dangerous for me to fight in the war because I cannot control my shifts. But, all this might change, because Dr. Bennett, who is the director of Genetic Research for a reason, now says he has created something that could control the monster inside of me.
“Can I see the thing that will help me control my shifts?” I asked.
Dr. Bennett nodded, and showed me two small identical black wristbands.
“Try them!” he said.
I slipped them on. They were snug and felt natural.
“I also created a feature in the wristbands to jumpstart your shifts in case of emergency. Do you mind if we try it?”
Because it was Dr. Bennett, the man who had always been so kind to me and gave me the name Interitum, not because I was destruction, but because I would save the world from destruction, I said yes without hesitation. If it had been anyone else asking, I would not have been as sure.
“Wait, this isn’t safe. I could hurt you!” I realized.
“I’ll be fine in this disaster-proof chamber, and if something happens, I’ll just press this button,” he held up a small remote with a big button in the middle.
Dr. Bennett climbed into the disaster-proof chamber, which was huge and sturdy-looking. I stood grimly in the middle of the room. Dr. Bennett pointed to his wrists then gave me a thumbs up. I looked at my wrists and saw the small red buttons on the outside of the two wristbands. I pressed each one. Then I felt a sharp sensation like two small needles were puncturing my skin on the outside of each wrist. The slight pain barely affected me. I shrugged my shoulders and waited. Still nothing.
Suddenly, there was an intense fire of rising inside me, unfurling like a flag. Pain whipped through my body like a wildfire. Slowly, my body rippled, as bones shifted and tore through flesh, grating excruciating pain over my entire body. Everything welled up, and my vision exploded.
I sniffed. Blood. Blood. My vision blurred and I swirled around, following the scent. I cocked my head at the iron door obstructing my way, then clamped down on it, and threw it to the side. The scent of blood grew stronger. My eyes narrowed and pupils dilated. Nothing could stop me once I zeroed in on my prey. A few guards patrolling the halls saw me and screamed. They shot at me, but I dodged, without much effort, and ate their guns, which felt cold, crunchy, and smoothly metallic in my mouth. Loyally, I followed the smell of blood once more. I entered the arena, where people were battling each other. When they noticed me, they screeched in horror. I raced to the scent I had been looking for. My prey. It tried to run but stood no chance. It was feeing time. In a flurry, I ripped and tore flesh. Blood splattered everywhere. I roared, and began to feast. Unexpectedly, my keen hearing picked out the sound of unidentified objects whistling toward me, unusually fast…I lost feeling in my body, and felt the ground rush up at me as everything faded away.
Slowly, my eyes opened. Hurriedly, I sat up. Fear clouded my mind. What destruction had I done this time? More importantly, who had I killed? I looked around quickly. Wait–where was I? Blood pounced in my ears. The floor beneath me blurred as I listened intently to the voices coming through the door.
“He is not ready yet!”
“I am pleased, Dr. Bennett. The mind control of the wristbands is exceptional.”
“Wait! No! There are improvements to be made! More training!”
The door burst open.
“Get up,” a man in a suit said, looking down at me.
“Uh-oh,” I thought, getting up slowly. All of a sudden my legs wobbled and I collapsed in a heap on the white tiled floor. My whole body tingled and felt sore.
“Let’s get you fixed up,” the Boss said. He motioned the guards and they lifted me out of the room.
“Interitum! Are you okay?!” Dr. Bennett yelled, running down the hall to me.
I lifted my head up too fast, and a jab of pain pierced my skull. I moaned. I started feeling dizzy…
Without warning, my vision cleared. Dr. Bennett stood over me, with a needle raised. We were in a small white medical room.
“Thanks,” I said.
Dr. Bennett nodded by avoided my eyes as he lifted me into a cleansing chamber, where I washed and lathered with antibiotic. After, he told me to lean over, so he could examine my neck. I had not noticed this before, but there were 10 small puncture holes. He applied some kind of cream to them, and I winced at the slight sting.
“Am I a vampire now?” I joked.
“No, but I hope you don’t sustain long-term injuries from these sedatives! I can’t believe this! They shot you with 10 M99 elephant tranquilizers! Those are strong enough to kill humans!”
“Well, they didn’t kill me because I’m not human.”
“What are you saying?” Dr. Bennett replied. “Just because you can change into a gorgonopsid doesn’t mean you’re not human!”
“Yeah, I’m so human. I can turn into a dinosaur with 12 inch long saber-like teeth that’s as big as a rhino!” I said sarcastically.
With a tortured look, I asked quietly, “How many people did I hurt?”
“One.” Dr. Bennett replied.
“I’m a monster! I don’t want to be who I am! I killed another innocent human!”
“Well, why are you here then?” Dr. Bennett said, unfazed.
“I’m here to help the world fight against OPEC and get help controlling myself! Wait–what do you mean?” I said, confused.
Dr. Bennett gave me two red wristbands that looked identical to my black ones except for the color.
Then, with a slight frown, he said, “This is the finished model of your wristbands.”
I switched wristbands so I was wearing the new red ones Dr. Bennett had given me.
Without warning, footsteps echoed in the hallway.
“Go to the Training Arena,” Dr. Bennett whispered. “If I don’t see you within 30 minutes don’t trust anybody. I’m sorry for not–”
The footsteps echoed even closer and the Boss appeared in the hallway, smiling.
I started to run but then hid behind the corner of the hallway, craning my neck to hear. “He’s not ready yet! He hasn’t completed his training yet and is severely damaged from the tranquilizers your men used on him!” Dr. Bennett said.
“That’s too bad, because it is time for him to play his part in this war,” The Boss said, laughing good-naturedly. If I wasn’t seeing Dr. Bennett’s face I would think The Boss was laughing at a joke. Dr. Bennett’s skin had lost its color, and it was as white as a piece of paper; it contrasted with the pink veins straining on his neck. The two men whispered for a moment and I couldn’t hear what was being said.
“OPEC will lose the war without him! He’s our only chance at winning this! We need to protect our investments, Dr. Bennett, at least.”
I felt my body heat up with frustration and confusion.
“He’s just a child!” Dr. Bennett pleaded.
The Boss laughed again. “Not if he can turn into a dinosaur! We have put a lot into this specific investment and we’re tired of waiting. We need him Bennett, whether you agree or not!” He snapped his fingers, and guards dragged Dr. Bennett away.
What had just happened? Was The Boss referring to me? Was I in danger? Panic surged through my body and my heartbeat sped up. Wait! Where were they taking Dr. Bennett!?
“No,” I thought. “Primatech would never do anything to hurt me or Dr. Bennett. If anything, Primatech was protecting me against people like my parents, people who wanted to hurt me. Dr. Bennett must have done something bad. Maybe he wanted to hurt me.”
It seemed that I was more confused than ever. It was at that perfect moment that the loudspeaker announced:
“Weapon X257, please report for a briefing in The Boss’s office.” The loudspeaker repeated this two times then quieted.
As I entered the hallway, I was pushed by a wave of people towards The Boss’s office. It seemed that they were headed to the briefing, too.
When I opened the door, a flood of people came out. I peered inside; the Boss’s office was crowded with people. I recognized some of the other scientists, but Dr. Bennett was nowhere in sight. Worried, I squeezed through the doorway. As I waited for the Boss to brief me, he announced to the other scientists:
“Dr. Marmolet is now the head of the Genetic Research Department, taking the place of Dr. Bennett, who has resigned.”
Dr. Bennett resigned? I wanted Dr. Bennett, not Dr. Marmolet. I just…didn’t know Dr. Marmolet as well! Dr. Bennett knew me! Why would he leave without even saying goodbye? What would I do without him? I needed to get him back. But, what could I do? Dr. Bennett would know. My thinking was interrupted when I realized the Boss had been repeating my name over and over again, and I hadn’t been listening.
“Why did Dr. Bennett resign?” I burst out.
“I don’t know; I don’t ask.” the Boss replied. He paused. “Are you ready for your first war mission?”
I took a deep breath. “No,” I said. “Why now? Not without Dr. Bennett.”
There was then a strong pull of some emotion in my heart that I didn’t recognize. It almost felt like anger, but it was softer, like I had given up somewhat. The Boss gazed at me.
“I know you’re unhappy because Dr. Bennett isn’t here, but the world needs you, whether you agree or not,” he said slowly. Funny. That’s like what he said to Dr. Bennett.
“Weapon X257; you can use your unique ability in order to save billions of people, to fight for the good side in the upcoming global war,” The Boss grasped my shoulder and squeezed it, a little too much. I thought hard.
“I don’t want to be a monster,” I said slowly.
“You won’t be if you fight for the good side! Use your ability for a good cause!”
“But in war I will still be hurting innocent people!”
The Boss snarled. “Those people are not innocent! OPEC is simply defending its right to rule over the world’s oil supply!”
“Oh? Dr. Bennett never told you the truth? Primatech works for OPEC. You will never escape our control, Weapon X257 because you were made to fight on our side! ”
So everything is a lie? My whole past was nothing?
“Where is Dr. Bennett? Did he actually retire?” I glared.
“Oh, him. We never trusted him. We needed him. But now we don’t. When Dr. Bennett first joined our corporation, he wanted to be free to perform… more dangerous genetic experiments in the name of science. He protested everything we did to you. He claimed it was unethical to use human test subjects, but he had his family’s lives to look out for. He was the only one in the way of us installing a device that would give us complete control over you in your brain. Fortunately, now we have dealt with him.
My eyes widened in shock. Mind control?
Then, I decided to ask the question I had wanted to know the answer to ever since I had been in existence.
“What happened to my parents?”
The Boss chuckled.
“They never existed. We made you.”
“It’s amazing what geneticists can do these days! Dr. Bennett was the expert leading the team who finally created our most successful weapon–you.”
Then, there was that strange feeling again, like someone was doing something weird to my heart every time I thought about Dr. Bennett. Where was he?
“Weapon, lay down your defenses and help us put the rest of the world in its place, or let us take you by force–you will never have a free mind again.”
The air smelled like damp sweat.
“Is everything all right, Weapon?” The Boss interrupted my thoughts, smiling wickedly. “It is time. Are your wristbands on?”
I didn’t move.
The Boss glared at me and yanked my sleeves up so he could see my wristbands. I was still wearing the new wristbands Dr. Bennett had given me. The red ones.
“Are those red? I thought all our mind control wristbands were black? I told Dr. Bennett I wanted black!” the Boss noted curiously.
“Dr. Bennett said this is the finished model,” I said, smiling slowly with realization.
The truth that Dr. Bennett had been protecting me all this time struck my heart. I felt some kind of liquid trailing down my face.
“It’s time for you to play your part in the war!” the Boss said, pressing the red buttons on my wristbands.
I couldn’t control myself. The rage welled up inside me, clawing my insides up and twisting my mind. I couldn’t escape fate. I was Interitum.
When I opened my eyes again, I knew exactly what prey I was hunting.
Allie Quan, Age 13, Grade 8, The Anderson School, Silver Key