Experiment Number Six
When his mission goes sideways, sniper Jason Slate wakes up in a strange hospital, drugged out of his mind, and captive of a shrewd terrorist organization. He's rescued by the military and placed in the care of Eric Archer, a warrant officer charged with helping him recover. But did the terrorists lose Jason... or let him go?
Jason Slate regains consciousness one step at a time. Hearing returns first. People are mumbling all around him, but he’s still too confused to make any of it out. The murmurs sound like garbled white noise—distant, unimportant.
His eyelids feel like they weigh a thousand pounds. It actually hurts when he tries opening them. Jason’s limbs aren’t responding to any of his commands. They, too, are heavy, fuzzy appendages. He feels disconnected. Adrift. He inhales deeply, as quietly as he can. The room smells like disinfectant and sweat.
Someone grabs his arm, making him start. “He’s awake,” the person says. There is more muttering, some in English and some in Spanish. Then the person holding his arm wipes it with a moist cotton ball. The implication is clear; it gives Jason the strength to move.
His eyes fly open. He sees everything in quick succession—the bright lights, the monitoring equipment, the straps binding him to the bed, and the attending team in scrubs. “No,” he tries to snarl. It comes out as a weak croak. Jason starts struggling, kicking, and thrashing, but the restraints hold firm. He only manages to flop pathetically atop the thin mattress. The man holding his arm doesn’t even lose his grip.
“Keep still,” he says. “Or you will hurt yourself.” His tone is clipped and clinical.
Jason stops fighting and stares at him, trying to commit the face to memory. He’s wearing a face mask and glasses. Oily strands of black hair are poking out of a soft blue cap. He finishes wiping the inside of Jason’s elbow with alcohol. “Who—” Jason stops to cough. “Who are you people?”
At the masked man’s gesture, another man in scrubs appears. He shoves a plastic straw under Jason’s nose. It’s then that Jason realizes how thirsty he is. Despite every instinct screaming to escape these people, he can’t help himself from closing his lips around the straw. He drinks greedily. It’s some kind of rehydration solution, a touch salty with a pinch of sweetness.
He spits out the straw when the syringe appears. “Wait, what is that?”
The masked man ignores him, double-checking the dosage. “Log it,” he says over his shoulder. Jason hears someone scribble on a clipboard.
“01:42,” someone else says. “Experiment Number Six, log thirty-one begins.”
“What are you doing?” Jason demands, an edge of fear creeping into his voice. He starts thrashing again. This time, more scrubs appear. Four pairs of hands are on him now, weighing him down and holding him still. “Let me go.” He feels the prick of the needle, and panic comes in full force. “Let me go!”
The people in scrubs may as well have been robots. They betray no emotion behind their face masks. Jason’s arm is cold, chilled from whatever they’re pumping into him.
“Three hundred milligram dose administered.” The masked man sounds like he’s reporting the weather. “Subject seems disoriented, perhaps from the anesthesia.” He stands and gestures to one of the attendants. She shuffles away. “Vitals monitored prior to administration. Pulse: sixty-seven. Blood pressure: 120 over seventy. Eyes focused and clear. Breathing regular.”
Anesthesia? “You put me under?” Jason starts struggling again once he’s released. “Who the hell are you people? What do you want with me?”
It’s like talking to a brick wall. No one answers him. In fact, most of the attendants end up leaving the room. The woman returns with a saline drip, coming around the other side of his bed.
“Let her,” the masked man says. “That will help keep you alive.”
Jason balks. “What the fuck is going on here?” He clings to his anger. It’s better than giving in to terror.
The woman pokes him with an IV and sets up his drip. Jason glances around. The place is decorated like a small hospital room, full of patient monitoring equipment, but the walls are made of stone and brick. It’s very dark, and there are no windows. He has no idea where he is.
He’s wearing his camo pants and a drab olive T-shirt. He can feel the dog tags around his neck. His boots are gone. “What did you just give me?” he asks. The others remain quiet. He realizes that only the masked man—the doctor—and his scribe are still in the room. The silence is maddening.
The dizziness comes suddenly, like he’s drunk too much wine. Jason stares at the camo pattern on his pants, watching it swim before his eyes. The warmth comes next, starting in his heart and blossoming out toward his extremities. He lets his head fall back and lolls it against the pillow. “What did you do to me?”
The doctor mutters something to the scribe. “We’ll get to that, Mr. Slate. First we have a question for you: Who is the conduit?”