PROJECT CERULEAN MX
by The Pecman
What? Where?” Joey muttered, abruptly sitting up.
“It’s almost 7AM.” said a familiar voice. “I’m going to the store to get a few things and run some errands. I’ll be back in an hour — faster, if I can make it.”
Momentarily confused, the boy rubbed his eyes and stared at the room around him. It was an odd makeshift workroom, with a desk on one side. The shabby vinyl couch beneath him had been torn in spots and repaired with duct tape, but was surprisingly comfortable. Dr. Noble’s face was filled with concern.
“Right,” Joey replied, struggling to his feet. “How’s... how’s Michael?”
Noble held out his hand to stop him. “Listen — I need to tell you a few things. It’d be better if you stayed out of that room.” He nodded towards the living room down the hall.
The boy’s eyes widened. “Has Michael grown any bigger? I thought you said he was under control!”
“He’s stabilized... for the moment. But there’s something more. You didn’t see the rest of the final report. I found an old Arpanet copy on a website — incredible, what you can find out there if you know where to look — and these should fill in the blanks.”
The boy reached out to take the printed pages, but the scientist hesitated. “I warn you, you won’t like what you read.”
Joey stared at him. “Tell me the gist of it.”
Noble sighed. “All of the Ultra soldiers eventually went mad, a kind of insanity — a side-effect of the experiment. Physically, they were... well, perfect. But after about three or four months, their minds became bent in a narcissistic direction — as if their intention was to subject and dominate the entire human race. Unchecked, I think they might have eventually done it. Despite being completely psychotic.”
“What, were they frothing at the mouth?”
“This was far more insidious. Ultras were...” — he struggled to find the right word — “...they were terribly charismatic. Up until that time, the most charismatic man I had ever met was President Reagan.”
“Yes. He authorized the funding for the project through DARPA, beginning with his first term in the White House. I didn’t always agreed with his politics, but he was an honorable man. More than I can say about some of the Army staff.”
Joey nodded towards the hallway. “What about Michael?”
Noble shook his head. “Aside from his body, his mind may have been... altered by the formula. He’s not the boy you knew yesterday — not anymore.”
“But you said you could restore him?”
“I said I would try. We won’t know until the solution has had a chance to react. But just in case, I’ve had to restrain him.”
Joey’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I’ve tied him down to the living room couch. Don’t listen to a word he says. He’s been drifting in and out of consciousness.”
“This sounds like something out of The Exorcist,” the boy mused.
“In a way, that’s not far off,” Noble agreed. “Michael is possessed — but the demon has been a part of our DNA for thousands of years. The Cerulean formula perfects the human form, but what we didn’t initially know is that it unleashes a lot of negativity in our minds. I can’t claim to understand all the psychological effects; that was Dr. Woods’ department.”
“Mary Woods. I remember.”
“Yes, Mary. She was the first to fully understand it. Ultras can be... well, let’s just say very persuasive. They get what they want.” He stared at the boy. “Anything you have, they’ll take.”
“I only have about fifteen bucks on me.”
The doctor sighed. “Are you a virgin?”
Joey’s mouth dropped open. “I’m thirteen — give me a break.”
“Answer the question. Yes or no?”
His face reddened. “Yes.” Well, except for a little horseplay with Michael over the past year or two, he thought, but that hardly counted.
Noble raised an eyebrow. “You won’t be, after the creature in the other room gets through with you. Chances are, you’ll beg to have sex with him.”
Joey shuddered, but it was a mixture of desire and horror. He’d long known he was attracted to his friend. Who wouldn’t be? Michael was by far the more good-looking athlete of the two. What few other school friends Joey had were all Michael’s; they only hung out with him as long as Michael was there. More than one person at school had told him they thought his friend was the best-looking kid in their class.
“I don’t... I mean, I never tried...”
The doctor waved a hand. “I don’t care if you’re straight or gay or somewhere in between, or if you’re currently undecided. Trust me: Ultras always get what they want. They are very dangerous. Beyond their strength, their agility, their regenerative powers... no one can resist them.” He shook his head sadly. “We had no idea of the fatal flaws in our experiment. Once we unlocked the test subjects’ DNA in the 1980s, we let the genie out of the bottle, and over 130 people died before we shoved it back inside. And it’s got to stay there.”
The boy sat down on the edge of the bed and ran his hand through his shaggy black hair. “Michael won’t hurt me,” he said. “I’ve known him since kindergarten. My mom and his mom were best friends in high school.”
The doctor let out a long sigh, then checked his watch. “Alright. Just promise me you won’t get anywhere near him. Avoid even talking to him if you can. I’ll bring in the necessary compounds and will mix the control formula. I’m also going to get some ice, so we can return him to the bathtub. It’s imperative that we lower his body temperature in order for the process to work.”
“You’ve got my cell number — call me immediately if you run into a problem. If necessary, I’ll bring help.”
“No police. And not the government either. I know someone else who can help, but I’d rather avoid it for now.”
Joey nodded and watched the man walk out the hallway, then heard the front door open and close. A moment later, the Camry roared to life, chugged once and stalled, then re-started and began rolling through the gravel driveway. The desert crickets momentarily halted their nightly serenade, waited until the car disappeared down the lane, then began chirping again.
The boy glanced at his watch. 7:05, he thought. This was worse than an episode of 24, where each passing minute gets more and more intense. He prayed for time to speed up, mentally willing the watch to move faster to 8AM.
§ § § § §
“You’ve got to be kidding, Sanford,” the white-smocked clerk said, glancing over the hastily-scrawled list.
“Do you have them in the stock room, or not?”
“They are, but the third one down is a controlled substance.”
Noble sniffed. “It’s not a narcotic. It’s not a somatostatin, nor is it a steroid.”
“It’s not exactly legal, and you know it.”
The scientist slid a $100 bill across the counter and under the man’s fingertips. “And you’ll have to accept my word that I won’t use it for any illegal purposes. You’ve known me for 15 years, Howard. My proclivities extended only to alcohol, and my arrest record is completely clean. Have I ever given you cause to doubt me?”
Howard frowned. “No. Not recently.” He paused for a moment. “I haven’t seen you at meetings lately.”
“I’m down to only going once a month. Haven’t had a drink for seven years, and I have no intention of falling off the ladder. I’m comfortable. The pension isn’t what I deserved, but I can survive.”
The technician shook his head. “I don’t like it. But I’m going to go against my instincts and give you what you want. We’re going to write it up as samples.” He took the $100 bill. “And you still owe me $47 — plus tax.”
Noble smiled. “A small price to pay for your kindness. I appreciate your trust, Howard.”
The man gave him a suspicious glare, then began measuring out some brown powder into a small plastic container.
§ § § § §
Joey peeked around the corner. Michael — or at least the man-sized version of his friend — was sprawled out on the couch unconscious, his breathing slow and regular.
He tiptoed into the room and grabbed the water bottle he’d left behind and took a swig. Despite the rattling air conditioner in the window, the room temperature was already well over 90 degrees. The boy took a swig of water, then wiped the sweat off his forehead. He hadn’t slept very well, sleeping pills or no. He looked forward to getting back home, and was already trying to come up with a plausible story that would placate his mother and father. He checked his cellphone and winced: as expected, there were six angry texts and three voicemails, all from his home phone, the last from 4:30AM. He’d been rehearsing several ideas for the past few minutes; his current favorite was that Michael had been injured while doing some harmless, petty crime, and that he’d found a doctor and Joey decided to stay with him until he was well.
That was almost the truth, he thought, running the story over and over again in his head, examining it from every angle for possible flaws.
“Mmmmph,” said the body on the couch. “Mmmm! Mmmmmmph!”
Joey turned and Michael was staring right at him, wide awake. His eyes were pleading and filled with tears. Please, they seemed to say... please at least remove the duct tape.
“Water?” Joey asked.
Michael nodded slowly. “Mmmmph.”
What could that harm? he thought.
“Look,” Joey began, “We brought you to Dr. Noble’s place last night, right after you called me. The Cerulean serum — you never should’ve tried it, but I think you know that now.” He sat down on an end table, making sure he was well clear of the man’s muscular arms and massive legs, which were straining against the leather restraints. He noted that the scientist had added some ropes, which had already worn deep grooves into the couch.
Michael nodded again. A tear trickled out from his right eye.
“Alright,” Joey said finally. “I’m gonna remove the duct tape. But you’re not yourself, Michael. Don’t try anything. Dr. Noble’s gonna be back in twenty minutes. He’s going to get you back to normal.”
He reached over, then slowly peeled the duct tape off his friend’s mouth. Michael let out a short moan.
“Jesus, thanks, dude,” he panted. “My mouth is as dry as the friggin’ desert. Please, give me some water, willya?”
Joey blanched. The voice was not exactly that of his friend’s; it was a good half-octave deeper, that of a man at least twice the age of Michael. But it really is him, he reminded himself. He carefully held the bottle up to the man’s lips and let him drink.
“Slowly,” he cautioned. “Not too fast.”
Michael sipped every drop until the bottle was drained. “God, I needed that,” he said, letting out a small hiccup. “Thanks, dude. God, these straps are really tight. You wouldn’t want to—”
“No fucking way,” Joey retorted, taking a step back. “Not with that Ultra stuff swimming around in your veins. You’ll pull some kind of Jedi mind-control bullshit on me.”
Michael looked confused. “What are you talking about? Look, I know I got a few more muscles, but—”
“A few? Jesus, Michael — you’re like the teenage Arnold Schwarzenegger or something! You’ve put on about 50 pounds and grown about half a foot taller in... what, 2 hours?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah, I know. And unlike in the movies, it hurt like fucking shit! The Incredible Hulk never had these problems.”
Joey laughed. “That movie totally sucked. And besides, you’re not green. And you’re still Michael.”
The man grinned — and suddenly he was his best friend again. The boyish smile was the same as it’d always been, only he was bigger, more masculine and more attractive. Maybe this was the Michael he would’ve eventually become in another five or ten years.
“I swear, it’s still me. Well, maybe a little more. Check out the arms.” He bent slightly and made a slight flex. The arm ballooned out more than two inches, and the bicep momentarily flared and expanded, rippling and tensing under the tight leather strap.
Joey felt a twinge. No question, his friend’s body was totally hot. But he couldn’t get past the idea of having sex with a man, which seemed repulsive; if he’d been a guy his age... maybe. But this version of Michael was anything but a kid.
“My stomach, too,” the man continued. “I know it’s hard to see under all the hair, but check out the abs. I’m totally ripped.”
He leaned forward slightly and deep ridges suddenly appeared down his lower torso. “Remind me to shave, so you can see what they look like. Stallone never looked this ripped in any of the Rocky films.”
Joey’s mouth suddenly felt a little dry. “Yeah. You actually do look pretty cool.”
Michael slowly turned his face towards him. “And you should see my cock,” he said in a low voice. “It’s fucking huge. I swear to god, it’s gotta be a foot long.” His fingertips touched his thigh, and a bulge suddenly appeared through the bathrobe. “Bigger than any porno star we ever saw in those videos we watched at my place.”
The boy said nothing, but continued to stare as the robe continued to swell upwards.
“You want to touch it, don’t you? Please. I really need to get off. We’ve done it before, Joey.”
The younger boy gave a shudder and looked away. “But that was before. Things are different now.”
“They don’t have to be different, Joey. C’mon — please, do it for me.”
There was a faint odor in the air, a musky aroma of salt and sweat. Joey’s heart began to pound, and almost against his will, he leaned closer, then reached out and brushed the robe aside, his hand shaking. Michael’s massive erection sprang free, throbbing to his heartbeat.
“God,” the boy said in a whisper. “I’d give anything to have one that big.”
“I think we can arrange that. But just get me off. I did it four times in a row last night when I was changing, and it wasn’t enough. I gotta come... right now. Please.”
Almost hypnotically, Joey reached out and began to stroke. The cock was hot to the touch, warm and alive, almost like a living creature. The man’s body began to writhe and moan.
“That’s it,” he said, with a slight gasp. “Keep it goin’.”
The boy had a hard time grasping it with one hand, and reached out with the other, using them in tandem to keep the rhythm going.
“Cup my balls, please,” Michael said in a low voice. “I’m actually pretty close.”
Joey obliged. The testicles were large and heavy, much more than he would’ve expected, like trying to grasp two large lemons.
Michael immediately moaned. “God, that’s great. Can you... just put your mouth on it?”
The boy stopped. Their mutual sexual horseplay over the past year had usually been at Michael’s invitation, but this was a line they had never crossed before. While Joey admitted he’d been slightly attracted to Michael and a few other boys, he also was interested in several girls at school. Granted, up until now, he hadn’t yet dated any — unless you called that library project with Michelle a date, and that had been just pizza and a few laughs — but he never considered himself to be gay.
Just a phase we’re going through, he’d thought at the time.
“I’m almost there,” Michael begged. “Please. When this is over with, I’ll do it for you. I swear to god, Joey.”
The boy felt another twinge. He was now hard as a rock, though his own erection was only a fraction of the size of his friend’s. Every time he stroked Michael’s dick, he felt a surge in his own groin, almost as if they were sharing the impending orgasm.
As if under a spell, he lowered his head and widened his mouth. The cockhead barely slipped past his lips. It was thick enough that he had to open even wider than expected.
“Teeth,” Michael cautioned.
Joey quickly complied, anxious to please his friend any way he could. Using a combination of his hands and his mouth, he sped up the pace faster and faster. It was like gripping a log, rigid as iron, yet warm and pliable; he felt waves of power surge through him, like he was tapping into an enormous electrical outlet that filled him with strength. He never wanted it to end.
The erection went deeper into his mouth until it touched the back of his throat. The boy choked quietly, then mentally willed it to stop. I want this to be perfect for Michael, he thought in a daze. It’ll be the best ever. He sped up the motion, feeling a tingle in his own groin.
Suddenly, the man cried out and began to pump his hips spasmodically. A geyser of warm fluid erupted into the boy’s mouth and down his throat, again and again. At that exact moment, Joey’s erection surged and he came violently, staining the front of his jeans with a large, sticky patch that trickled down his thighs. He collapsed onto Michael’s lap, and almost without thinking, he lapped up every drop, his entire body afire, his cock aching. I could do this all day and not even care, he thought, feeling slightly numb yet utterly alive. The front of his face and shirt were damp with goo.
He looked up and Michael was smiling at him, his expression practically glowing. “God, Joey... that was even better than I hoped for. Come’ere.”
Joey did as expected and embraced his friend’s face, then they shared a long, deep kiss. After a few moments, he felt a warm hand on the back of his head. He looked down. The belt was torn loose, ripped at the seams, and the ropes were now frayed and tattered.
“Thanks, pal. I really mean it. Now, do me a favor and grab my jeans over there. I think there’s a spare bottle in the back right pocket, and it’s got your name on it.”
§ § § § §
Dr. Noble raced the car down American Pacific Drive, then glanced at his watch. 8:02AM. Slightly behind schedule, but I had to double-check the relative balance ratios. He estimated that the original adolescent version of Michael should’ve been about 100 pounds, maybe 110, tops. By his calculations, the control formula would return the boy to within 20% of his original body weight, and his face and relative proportions would return to normal.
Well, perhaps not quite normal, he mused. Judging by the spent ampoule, the boy had only managed to give himself a half-dosage. If it had been a full adult dosage, he could’ve potentially grown seven feet tall and gone completely mad, possibly with a genetic structure so unstable, his cells would’ve disintegrated by dawn. Noble shuddered at the memory of Test Group 5 from 1986, whose results had been so disastrous, several of the attending nurses had to be institutionalized just from the visual shock of seeing the molecular structure of five human beings mutated beyond recognition. Like a malfunctioning transporter beam from Star Trek, he thought, remembering one of the old sci-fi films.
But that wouldn’t happen this time. The Revision 11 serum was proven to be stable in the final months of the project. Had they only been allowed to continue, this would’ve solved all the issues. Unfortunately, the staff were only able to try it on three of the last volunteers. This test group hadn’t gone mad, though they’d shown the same sexual characteristics of the others, yet without the narcissistic tendencies. Unfortunately, the Revision 11 subjects been executed along with all the others. Cartwright had made no exceptions. Couldn’t take the chance, Sanford, the General had explained to him in the hospital, while the scientist was recovering from his injuries. Not after what they did to Mary and Dr. Watanabe. It was all or nothing.
Noble had been assured that all traces of the project had been “cleansed” and every trace of the Cerulean formula had been burned and destroyed. The inferno — created with the aid of about 10,000 pounds of the most powerful rocket fuel on the planet — burned nearly three square miles for 48 hours, with an initial temperature of over 3000 degrees. More than enough to incinerate 130 bodies and completely vaporize the ashes. Their seven-year experiments had proven that the Ultras’ regenerative abilities were almost beyond belief.
Not even a silver bullet in the brain would stop them, he thought with a shudder. Burning or a nuclear bomb were the only permanent solutions.
Noble pulled his creaking 1993 Toyota Camry up to his parking space, let the engine grind to a halt, then got out. The mobile home looked clear. He looked around, satisfied there was no one watching. His comings and goings had been few, especially over the past few months. The scientist had a limited diet, and the FIOS internet connection inside his trailer was more than enough to provide him with daily information and entertainment to sustain him. Aside from once-a-week trips to the supermarket and to the local laundromat, his needs were few.
The doctor picked up the bag of supplies from the back seat. He had the hypodermics already prepared — he’d learned that lesson from nearly seven years of dealing with the Ultras — and he couldn’t take the chance that Michael (or the young giant that still retained some of the boy’s mind) might try something hostile. The first vial would be enough to subdue him; the second would begin to reverse the original formula. How far, he mused, we won’t know for at least three hours. He prayed that the ratios he’d estimated were right and would restore the boy to some vestige of normalcy, at least for the next week. If not, he knew the outcome: he’d have no choice but to telephone his contacts at Wright-Patterson, and the black ops squad would come to take Michael away.
Noble paused. Probably dissection first, then oblivion. Because, after all, there was no permanent antidote to the Cerulean project. True, he’d come up with the control formula in the last few weeks before everything collapsed, but it was temporary at best. Eventually, the animalistic tendencies of the altered DNA would always break through, like a weed slowly pushing its way through solid concrete. Nature always finds a way, as the saying goes.
He stepped up to the door, which was partly open. Not good, he thought, reaching in his picket to feel for the first syringe. “Joey?” he called. “You boys alright? It’s Dr. Noble. I brought you a bagel, in case you need breakfast.”
He closed the door behind him and turned towards the couch. Michael appeared to be sleeping fitfully on the living room couch, muttering every so often. The restraints seemed to be secure. Noble set down the bag and held the needle point down, carefully hiding it in his palm as he walked down the hallway.
“Joey?” he whispered. “You taking a nap?”
Noble poked his head in the guest room. The boy was sprawled face down on the couch... but he was shuddering. The doctor was alarmed. As he grew closer, he saw that Joey’s limbs were beginning to ripple and to change...
“No!” he whispered out loud.
“Yes,” said a voice behind him.
Noble slowly turned. “Hello, Michael,” he said calmly. “I see you’ve injected Joey.”
“In more ways than one, doctor,” the muscular monster replied, dropping the robe to the ground, standing naked in the doorway, his muscles gleaming in the dim hallway light, his limp penis swinging pendulously between his legs. “I fucked him twice, just in the last half hour. The kid passed out, but trust me, he had a smile on his face. And he’s gonna be as big as me very soon. I hope you won’t do anything to stop him.”
“Not for the moment.”
“You can’t do anything to me, puny man,” the creature said, forcing his wide shoulders through the narrow doorway. “In fact, I think you want to have sex with me. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable down on your knees? I bet you never saw a cock like mine before.”
Noble shrugged. “Actually, I have. In fact, I saw more than 200 men that were nearly twice your size in the 1980s. Some wound up over seven feet tall and 400 pounds, though most specimens bigger than that usually died within 24 hours. But the other subjects... why, they’d make you look like what you really are: just a 13-year-old boy.”
Michael stopped and scowled at him. “Shut up. I’m a lot more than that.”
“But you’re still just a boy inside. You have no idea how to handle your powers. There’s no one on the face of this earth that can help you refine your skills other than myself. Believe me, I was the last person to want Cerulean MX to end. It was my concept in the first place.”
Michael shook his head. “I read the report again and memorized every bit of it. Took me less than a second a page, like I’ve got a high-speed scanner right here.” He tapped his forehead for emphasis. “Dr. Watanabe and Major-General Cartwright started the project in 1981.”
Noble smiled. “Mere figure heads. Watanabe was a well-intentioned man, but he just looked ‘good in a suit,’ as they say in corporate America. And Cartwright had the connections to the Pentagon. I was the unsung hero who actually held the whole thing together. Do the research, and you’ll find I was the architect of the entire program, starting in 1980.”
“From the ashes of Majestic-12.”
This time, it was Noble’s turn to be surprised. “You knew about that?”
Michael shrugged and leaned back against the door frame. “Yeah. I was just finishing up checking your internet cache when you drove up. Amazing the stuff that people post on websites.”
“Half of it’s exaggerated. The other half is just a mixture of truth and folklore.”
The muscular giant leaned forward, casting a dark shadow across the doctor’s face. “I figured out that you lied when you said you came up with the original Ultra formula.”
Noble blanched, but caught himself. How much had this young man figured out in only 15 minutes? “I never said that,” the man insisted. “I was the first to synthesize the formula — which isn’t quite the same thing. It all came from the residue from... well, you read the reports.”
“From the spaceship wreckage.”
Noble nodded. “The alien bodies were already much too deteriorated for us to examine. They disintegrated to dust only a few hours after they had perished in the wreckage. I wish we could’ve kept them alive, figured out some way to communicate with them.”
“No. Roswell is ancient history, a dead end. This was from the 1977 crash in south Kansas — a real one, this time.”
“The alien blood was the answer.”
“Yes, exactly. We were able to retain a small sample of their blood cells. Within a year, we experimented on lab animals. They grew radically, became absolute ideals of their species, as long as we could keep them alive. And by 1981, we were ready to try it on human volunteers.”
Michael nodded. “That explains a lot that wasn’t in the report. But the alien DNA didn’t completely match ours.”
“No. It was very close, just as a chimpanzee’s DNA is within 97% of our own. But the aliens’ were even closer — more like 99%. But matching that final 1% took us over ten thousand man-hours of constant calculations to perfect, with a staff of twenty scientists. And we ultimately succeeded, after massive trial and error.”
“But not for long.”
Noble began to inch closer. “Long enough for us to realize the pros and cons. Hitler had tried the Lebensborn program in the early 1940s, leading to the ultimate level of Übermensch, the so-called “Hünenmensch.”
“The master race.”
“Exactly.” Noble took another step closer, keeping his right hand in position. “We weren’t trying to ‘cleanse the race,’ as the Third Reich had attempted. We looked upon all mankind as equal, regardless of racial origin or ethnicity. As far as I’m concerned, this was for the human race, the entire world: the eradication of all birth defects, the elimination of disease, the perfection of mankind to the highest possible level.”
“And that includes intelligence as well. My brain feels as big as my muscles,” Michael said, instinctively flexing one arm.
“Exactly. Think of it as a brain-boost. You’re at least 50 IQ points beyond where you were yesterday afternoon. We’re not sure why; there are still some aspects of the alien blood composition that still remain unknown. My research was shut down before—”
Michael leaned over. Their faces were now less than three feet apart.
Noble hesitated. He felt the hidden hypo in his hand, wondering if he could possibly strike fast enough before the creature ripped him limb from limb.
“Yes. Before the government exterminated all of us.”
Noble snorted. “Us? You’re not even close to an Ultra — not yet. They required months of training and testing. Merely having the power doesn’t give you the ability to use it.”
“But you killed them all.”
“Never. Cartwright killed them all, with the help of more than 2000 troops and six fighter jets. All their bodies were incinerated near Black Mountain.”
“Yeah. The PEPCON explosion here in Henderson.”
Noble nodded, then felt for the needle and fought to keep his voice steady. “The death squad attacked the Ultras at dawn. They’d taken two prisoners as hostages — our top scientists — but it didn’t matter. Everyone was killed. The military burned all the bodies just before noon and used the chemical fire as a cover. Nobody could get within two miles of the explosion.”
“And none of them survived?”
“Not that we know of. And there were some good men there. I counted several Ultras among my friends — close friends.”
Michael leaned forward and smiled, his massive naked physique a model of pure masculinity, and got within a foot of Noble’s face. “Why, doctor — I do believe you’re propositioning me.” His hips twitched and his flaccid cock began to slowly rise upwards.
The scientist returned his smile. “No. We broke the genetic code on the pheromones in ‘84. I was permanently vaccinated — you can’t seduce me the way you did Joey.”
Michael began to scowl. “Then what use are you to me?”
“I know a lot more than that report can ever tell you. You need me alive. You have no idea of the complications you’re in for. Cancer, for instance.”
“But you solved that by Revision 9.”
“Not always. It’s dormant, but anything that super-sizes your own body’s cells like hyperplasia also has the potential for causing cancer. It requires constant checking.” Noble stopped for a moment, then pointed to Michael’s massive arm, which must have been at least 18". “In fact, was that lump there yesterday?”
Michael momentarily glanced down, and Noble quickly brought his right hand out and smashed it towards the creature’s left shoulder. In a blur, Michael caught the man’s wrist, where it froze in mid-air. The needle dangled from his fingers.
“Naughty, naughty, Doctor. You’re gonna have to be a lot faster than that if you want to stop me.”
Noble grimaced, his hand shaking. “True,” he said at last. “But it was worth a shot — so to speak.”
“I should shove that hypo right up your ass.”
“Spoken like an intellectual. I’m disappointed, Michael. I suspect your IQ may have only gone up only about five or ten points, certainly not quite the usual 50.”
Noble leaned forward. “I dealt with more than 200 men like you, most of which were almost three times as powerful as you are, with ten to twenty years more life experience. I know exactly what you’re dealing with, but you have no idea who I am and what I can do for you.”
Michael narrowed his eyes. “I could rip your head off in less time that it takes for you to finish your next sentence.”
Noble didn’t even flinch. “And you’d be like a man who just bought a Ferrari and doesn’t even know how to drive. I know how to operate that body of yours better than you do. You don’t have a clue.” He wrested his hand free, then pointed to Michael’s head. “No matter how big you are, you’re not a man at all up here; you’re just a boy. No less a boy than Joey over there.”
Michael grinned. “You take a look at him lately? He doesn’t look like a kid to me.”
Noble turned and sucked in his breath. Joey was now in convulsions. His arms and torso were rippling, shaking with agony, and a low moan came out of his mouth. Suddenly, he began to vomit uncontrollably.
Michael stepped forward, concerned. “What’s happening to him?”
“He’s repelling all his body fat. He was a little stouter than you, so this could get quite messy. Ultras don’t need any body fat — they absorb almost 100% of all the nutrients they eat, with almost no waste. And if he doesn’t get enough food in the next fifteen minutes, he’ll burn himself out.”
“You don’t remember, because you were undergoing the transformation yourself last night. You were incoherent. Joey told me you consumed everything in the kitchen, even the dog food.”
“For all I know, I ate the dog.” Michael looked over to what was once his childhood friend, his face momentarily panic-stricken. “Can you do anything for Joey? Is he gonna die?”
“One hopes not. Look,” the doctor said calmly, slowly reaching into his back pocket. “I’m going to give you some cash. Here’s $200. I want you to go to the supermarket a mile east of here.”
“How should I get there?”
“Run. With that body, you can get up to 20 miles per hour — at least, the last Ultras I tested could do that for short periods. Take the back roads and don’t let anybody see you. And put on some clothes, for heaven’s sake.”
“What should I get?”
“Fifty pounds of meat. Ground sirloin, preferably Grade A ground round if they have it. Fresh, not frozen — low-fat. Then go to the health food store next door and buy three cases of premixed protein shakes. That should be enough.”
“If Joey likes chocolate, go for that formula. And hurry. I’ll feed him what little I have in my kitchen, but he’s going to shrivel up and die unless he gets a lot more food very soon.”
Michael grabbed the doctor’s shirt and dragged him forward until they were face to face. “This had better not be a trick.”
“Stop talking to me and get moving. As god is my witness, Joey will be dead in” — he checked his watch — “in twenty five minutes or less. Go! Now!”
The naked hulk squeezed back through the doorway. “What’ll I wear?”
“There’s a pair of sweatpants in that closet. My son’s old sweatshirt should be hanging nearby.”
“You’re too big. Just go barefoot. Buy a cheap pair of extra-large shoes if you have the time. Run!”
Noble listened for the thumps of the creature clumsily stumbling through the trailer, a momentary pause, then a slam as the door opened and closed. He heard the sound of bare feet running down the gravel road until they grew fainter in the distance.
The doctor sat by the bed and put his hand on Joey’s shoulder. The boy trembled, then vomited again. Noble used the sheet to wipe off the residue. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re just going to have to endure this as best you can. I’ll bring you some raw meat once I thaw it out.”
Noble caught a glimmer of a small glass bottle on the floor and picked it up, then silently cursed. The ampoule was completely empty: Michael had injected the smaller boy with a full dosage. “Not good,” the scientist said out loud. We saw what happened when a 13-year-old boy got a half-dosage. And now we’re going to find out what happens when another adolescent gets the adult dosage.
Joey’s eyes opened. “Help me,” he moaned. “Michael... he gave it to me.”
“I know,” the doctor said. “I’ll bring you some food in one minute.”
The boy clutched at Noble’s sleeve. “But I wanted it. Do you understand? I wanted it. I knew the risks... this is what I wanted.”
Noble sighed. “Understood. But listen to me: there’s going to be consequences for this. You two have opened Pandora’s box.”
The boy lifted up his arm, which was already twice the size it had been an hour ago. He moaned, then flexed it, and the bicep swelled into place. He smiled weakly. “It’s gonna be worth it.” He winced and looked up, his face suddenly looking very small and young. “Does it have to hurt this much?”
The doctor sadly nodded. “I’m sorry. Chromosomal activity at this level can be quite violent, and will tax even the strongest man. I’ll be back with some food in a moment. Lie still, and don’t try to move. Bite the pillow if you have to, and try not to scream too loudly. I’ll get you something for the pain.”
Noble moved swiftly down the hall and began pulling out every container of food from the refrigerator, starting with the milk and eggs, then reached for the cabinets, where he grabbed four canisters of Quaker Oats and cereal.
He let out a long sigh and gazed towards the side bedroom. “Be careful what you wish for, son,” he said quietly, then grabbed some frozen meat from the freezer, tossed it in the microwave oven, and hit the ‘Defrost’ button.
While the microwave began to whir, Noble pulled out an empty trash bag, tossed in the groceries, then dragged them back down the hall to the bedroom.
§ § § § §
“Professor?” Michael called, as he returned to the trailer. “I’m back with all the stuff you asked for. Had to load up two of these giant cardboard shipping boxes. Took me a little longer than I expected, but it’s all here.”
He chuckled for a moment, remembering the astonished look of the female cashier at the supermarket’s front counter, whose hands shook as she handed him his change. The bag boy’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, staring at his chest and arms, but still managed to slip him his phone number on his way out. Another potential candidate, he mused, noting the older teenager’s muscular build. No telling how big a guy could get on the serum if he already starts off as big as a football player.
The trailer was quiet. Michael frowned.
“There better not be any tricks, Doc!” he warned. “If you’ve done anything to hurt Joey, I’ll rip your fingers off, one at a time.”
As if to answer, there was a moan down the hall. “Joey!” he cried. Grabbing the grocery bags, he pushed his way through the living room and into the bedroom. His eyes widened.
The boy was positively huge. He’d grown half a foot taller, but was surrounded by puddles of blood and white ooze on the bed and floor. His arms were massive — if anything, slightly bigger than Michael’s — and his rapidly-growing thighs had already split the seams in his pants. His enlarged cockhead poked out obscenely from the torn crotch, the fabric in tatters.
Whoa, Michael thought. Little Joey might just be bigger than me. He made a note to give himself another injection, once he got the doctor under control. Speaking of which...
“Hey, Doctor Noble,” he called, setting down the grocery bags. “I think Joey here needs some attention. Can you—”
But before he was able to finish, Noble leapt out of a nearby closet and jabbed him in the spine with a sharp poke.
“No! You bastard!” Michael spun around, trying to dislodge the needle, but the doctor held on, then slammed the plunger all the way down.
Michael screamed and sank to his knees.
Noble leaned over. “Sorry about that, son,” he said, speaking quietly into the man’s ear. “Normally, that would paralyze most humans. In your case, getting the sedative directly into your spinal column was the most effective way to knock you out. The nerve endings will grow back in an hour.”
“You’re gonna... you’re gonna take away all of my muscles...” Michael said, his head already lolling onto his massive chest.
“I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to. But I’m going to reduce them to the point where you can function in the real world. Trust me, society isn’t ready for a 150-pound body-building 13-year-old. Your family would go crazy, then the DOD would put both you and your friend in chains and send you down to the deepest pit of Groom Lake. You know it as Area 51. There’s a lot of failed government experiments over there, and it’s like the Roach Motel: once they check in, they don’t check out.”
“Don’t wanna... don’t wanna be normal...” the boy gasped as his vision began to blur.
Noble caught him before he hit the floor. “You’ll be on the high side of normal,” he said. “But not so much that you’ll attract attention. Trust me.”
“Never... not after you betrayed...” Michael slumped over, and the room went black.
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