The vial had been missing for three days now. No one else knew it existed; no one would miss it.
Dr. Goodman sat at his desk at home, grasping the tiny vial in his hands. He was in possession of the Flangiprop. He felt powerful feeling the touch of cold glass in his hands. He knew the potency of this drug, and couldn’t wait to get started on further tests.
The doctor lived alone in his mansion; a mansion fit for kings. He had adopted a reclusive life after his wife died; he was very young and did not take it well. Although extremely wealthy himself, he worked for a top secret bio chemicals facility for the U.S. government. Flangiprop was an accident; synthesized as a by-product of their original research. It was named quite literally after his mentor and partner, Dr. Flan G. Prop, a known genius in his time. Only the two of them knew of this chemical, and it was never documented or spoken about since it wasn’t part of their original research.
Initial tests with the drug were conducted for curiosity sake almost a year back, and they revealed extraordinary results. They injected a group of lab mice with the drug and kept them under observation. Within days they could see visible differences in their musculature; the mice grew in size and their vitals were much stronger. For some mice, exposure to the Flangiprop had positive effects in healing internal injuries or birth defects. And even after a month of being exposed to the drug, no side effects had been noticed. They knew this discovery was a breakthrough in modern medicine. Life threatening injuries could be healed in days. Body growth could be stimulated. When launched, this product would change the face of the body building industry. Flangiprop could give a weakling super human strength. The implications were mind-blowing. After years of research, they knew they had finally struck gold.
Of course, no records of the tests were maintained; keeping records meant information leaks and unnecessary trouble.
The mentor was now gone. Dr. Prop had died just a couple of days back, that too under mysterious circumstances. The post mortem report revealed he had died by drowning, though it seemed impossible as Dr. Prop was an expert swimmer. Goodman knew he had to protect the formula, and more importantly, bring this miracle drug to the people. He had seen a lot of good things being misused, and did not want Flangiprop to fall in the wrong hands. It meant that he had to do it himself. He couldn’t trust anyone else anymore.
But he needed proof; concrete proof that this drug worked. He had to find a human subject. But not just anyone, someone who could understand the risks involved and was willing to accept them. Someone who had nothing to lose and would agree to put their life on the line for a clinical trial. And someone who was mentally tough to carry the burden of “being super”. Being super, he thought. Being super was not for everyone. It endowed tremendous power, which came hand in hand with great responsibility. Someone was going to be given a source of limitless strength; it was his job to find the right recipient.
He contacted one of the agencies the lab used for selecting subjects for clinical trials. He did not provide much detail on what was being tested, and the agency did not ask. Discretion was understood in their field of work. And the agency was quite thorough at being professional. He received profiles of possible candidates the next day. He picked up his coffee, sipped it, and opened the manila envelope with his free hand. After hours of studying and scrutinizing each profile, he narrowed down on one. This guy seemed like the obvious choice. He picked up a phone and called another number; this time an agency that specialized in background checks. Seventy two hours later, he had a dossier in his hands. He was satisfied; this was the subject he was looking for.
Ex-army Sergeant Jack Stone. Thirty three years of age, recently returned after serving for the last ten years in Afghanistan. He was six foot five, with a medium build and a lean, flexible body frame. Known to be extremely agile; war had sharpened his senses. Had led a team of five into battle against a group of hundred, and they had managed to come out of it victorious, that too with no casualties. He was known to survive in the worst of desert conditions and had done so on numerous occasions. He wasn’t a ruthless killer; he believed in taking his enemies alive and leaving no man behind. He had no parents or siblings; his wife had left him years ago over an excruciating phone call. She was tired of waiting for someone who was never around; who felt his country deserved more of him that did her. He had lost his home during a recent hurricane, and was currently staying at a veteran’s hostel. He was known to keep a low profile wherever he went. And he had applied for clinical trials because they asked very few questions and paid good money.
This man has nothing to lose, Goodman thought. And he’d known worse things in life. This man deserved a second chance; a chance to rebuild. Start afresh.
He called the agency and asked them to setup an appointment with the man. He chose to meet the man in a public place, Central Park, where there were a lot of open spaces. It would allow them to talk in private with fewer chances of them being overheard. He arrived at 7 PM. Stone was already there, right on time. He could see discipline standing out in his every move. They shook hands, and Goodman directed him to a bench in the corner; it had good visibility in all four directions. Goodman spoke briefly about the test he wanted to conduct. He did not disclose too much about the product; he said that this was a new drug to be used by athletes and professional body builders to aid muscle gain. Stone listened intently, patiently; never losing eye contact. Goodman liked this man instantly; there was no nonsense about him and he behaved like a thorough professional. Goodman offered him five thousand dollars for the trial, under the following conditions – that this meeting and everything discussed remained a secret until publicly disclosed at a later date; that Stone was willing to sign a contract indemnifying Goodman of any mishap or side effects of the tests; and that Stone would agree to remain in a controlled environment for observation for duration of three months.
Within seven days, the contract was signed. Stone moved in to Goodman’s mansion the next day. After settling in, the duo got to work. Dr. Goodman setup a lab at his home. He replicated the same conditions and environment as used for the lab mice tests, this time attached to a computer that would take records and make observations. He injected Stone with the Flangiprop; he adjusted the dosage based on his experience with the mice taking into account Stone’s body weight. There were no visible problems, and he took some initial readings. As he could not keep Stone confined in one spot, he decided to take readings on a daily basis. Now all they had to do was wait and watch.
Stone couldn’t sleep that night. He began to feel uncomfortable, different. He felt stronger; he could feel his body growing at a rapid pace. The drug had made him grow in one day almost as much as he would have grown in a year after using regular muscle enhancers. And then there were the nightmares. Nightmares involving dying people; death and destruction all around; the struggle for survival. He sat up in bed, hoping the night would end soon. It did not; he could feel every second go by. He decided to put on some shoes and go for a run around the estate. Running made him feel comfortable; it was a stress reliever for him. He came back to his room within a couple of hours, showered, and dressed up. Goodman found him in the lab in the morning; on time to take the next set of readings. The readings were astounding. Stone’s musculature had grown by ten percent, and was still growing by the minute. With the current dosage, the computer predicted that it would grow to up to fifty percent in the next three days, following which the growth would stop.
The next two days were worse. His skin was expanding at break neck speed. He was now freakishly strong, and had to be very careful while doing mundane tasks. He tried picking up Goodman’s car, and was able to lift it ten inches off the ground, without as much as breaking a sweat.
As predicted, the growth stopped after three days of the injection.
A month went by without any complications. Goodman took readings daily, and was pleased with the readings. In another week’s time, he would have all the data he needed to go public. Stone however, experienced hell every minute of his life. His newly given strength was overwhelming; he simply couldn’t get used to his massive body. And the nightmares weren’t helping. Every night he would see children dying around him, begging for water. Or he would recall the horrors of having to survive in arid wastelands. He couldn’t take it anymore.
Goodman observed Stone the other day and felt something was amiss. Stone was unusually quiet that day. It was a Saturday. He’d come in for the daily readings on time but did not speak a word. His eyes were focused, as if trying to make a hard decision. Goodman could see it in his eyes, but could not pin point what it was. Nevertheless, Goodman gave him the news.
Goodman had planned a press conference the next day. Their endeavor was a great success and they would go public tomorrow. Stone betrayed no emotions, simply nodded. Goodman was piqued at the cold reaction, but kept quiet.
Sunday arrived. Goodman walked into the lab, expecting Stone to have arrived already. But Stone wasn’t there today. Goodman waited for a few minutes, still no sign of him. This was unlike Stone, who was always on time. Goodman felt uneasy, as if he knew something bad was about to happen. He walked into his study. His face dropped, leaving his mouth open. He looked back in horror; his safe was open. Ripped from the hinges. No money was taken, but the contract was gone. So was a copy of the readings recorded over the previous days. The only copy – he hadn’t maintained any backups, again for security reasons. Goodman ran over to Stone’s room, only to find it empty. Stone was gone. Goodman sat down, placing his hand on his forehead, wondering how he could be so stupid.
Being super was not for everyone. It endowed tremendous power, which came hand in hand with great responsibility. Someone was given a source of limitless strength; it was now his job to find the man.
To be continued…