Iam phantom (novella): subject number one

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Subject Number One




OtherBooks By Sean Fletcher

The I Am Phantom Series:

I Am Phantom

WeWho Remain (August 2016)


The In the Depths of Darkness Series:

Inthe Depths of Darkness (December 2016)


Subject Number One

Sean Fletcher


The setting, characters and story used in thisbook are completely fictitious and come from the author’s imagination. Anysimilarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and are notintended by the author.


© 2016 Sean Fletcher

All rights reserved

First edition published August 2016


No part of this book may be used orreproduced in any manner without written permission of the author, except inthe context of reviews.


Cover Design: Audrey Mackaman

Editing thanks: DeLaine Fletcher,Sierra Pandy, Sarah Sanborn


Table of Contents:










I AmPhantom Preview

About the Author




The tests were doomed to fail. Lucius Sykescould see that from the charts projected at the front of the small conferenceroom. Clayton Carlyle, the other lead scientist on the project, had put up thegraph showing the latest round of test results on the serum. They started offwell enough, but by the end…

“So as you can see,” Carlyle was saying, glaringat the chart as though it was its fault they had failed again, “we need a morestable base compound. The serum breaks apart within seconds of contact with redblood cells. Ruptures them. That’s in a controlled test, though the human bodyis infinitely more complex, so there’s a chance it’d be different in a livesubject. If we were to move ahead with subject testing as proposed—”

“No,” Lucius said. The ten other scientists inthe room turned to him.

Clayton narrowed his eyes at Lucius. “No, Dr.Sykes?”

Lucius tapped roughly on the printed testresults in front of him. “We already talked about this. We can’t release it forlive subject testing, regardless of the benefits youthinkit might have. We can all see where this is going. Not just this test. Theproject as a whole.” He took a breath. The rest of the room waited. Luciusallowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction. Despite his age, he was one ofthe two lead scientists on this project. They would listen to what he had tosay, whether they liked it or not. “Right now, with the results, the superhumanserum may just have to be put on hold.”

There was a general murmur around the room. Notas many dissents as Lucius had thought there’d be. But then, he hadn’t expectedtoo many. This had been the fifth failed strain in the last year, and theystill hadn’t come any closer to stabilizing the serum or bestowing super humanabilities on live subjects.

 Dr.Van swiveled in his chair to face Lucius. He fixed him with an oily smile. “Dr.Sykes, forgive me, but it sounded like you want to shut this project down. Theoperation’s had its ups and down, I’ll grant you that, but you andyour—ah—vast experience hardly have the last say on whether wecontinue or not. The Defense Department didn’t pay us millions to return emptyhanded.”

“Dr. Sykes and Dr. Carlyle are lead scientistson this project,” Dr. Lin said. “So whether you like it or not, hedoeshave a say. A big one.”

 Dr.Van settled back in his seat with a frustrated grunt.

Dr. Lin gave satisfied smirk, and Luciusresisted staring at her. She was beautiful; almond-shaped eyes with long lashesand a black veil of glossy hair; glasses perched just at the tip of her shortnose.

Lucius wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t theonly one on their project with a crush on her. Though—and he could havebeen completely biased—he always suspected she favored him more. She hadstuck up for him, after all.

She flashed him an encouraging smile and a wink.Lucius’ mouth went dry.

His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth.He cleared his throat. “I’ll take another look at the data and consider itagain. But I’m not encouraged. Dr. Carlyle and I can speak after that and seeif we go forward with this.”

“Dr. Sykes,” Van said, “be reasonable. We’ve allput so much into this.”

“As have I, Dr. Van. More than most. You think Iwant to throw all that away? But this is the fifth time we’ve sat here and comeup with nothing. The people out there,” he pointed to where the open room oftheir underground work facility held dozens of other scientists, all hard atwork on the same serum, “they expect us to know what we’re doing. They expectprogress. And we don’t have it.”

Dr. Van uncurled his fingers and dug them intothe pockets of his lab coat. He seemed to fumble with something. “And that’syour final say?”

Lucius didn’t drop his gaze from Van’stight-lipped face. “It is.”

Van nodded like that had decided somethingLucius wasn’t aware of.

Carlyle had sat down. “Maybe if we move ahead onthe chimp tests we could see some of the progress you want.”

“Absolutely not,” Dr. Lin snapped.

Carlyle fixed her with a cool stare. “Excuseme?”

Lin seemed to realize what she’d done and backedup. “I mean, we should make sure everything is stable before doing that.”

“Not your call,” Carlyle said. “Not even Dr.Sykes’, though I’m sure he’d like it to be. I will run it by the boardpersonally and get back to everyone.” He sighed. “Why don’t we talk about whatwehaveaccomplished?”

An hour passed. Then two, as they looked throughthe rest of the test results. Lucius found his attention drifting from theslides, to his doodles, to Dr. Lin. Dr. Lin caught his eye and gave him anencouraging thumbs-up. Dr. Van saw this and scowled deeper. Lucius didn’t care.

It was as Carlyle was finishing up the secondround of slides that the rear door flew open and Kenneth Ryans, the head ofsecurity, practically ran in.

 Lucius had heard a little about Ryanssince he’d been hired. Possibly rumors, possibly not. Fantastic militaryservice in some of the roughest war-torn countries, including some jobs thatwere strictly off-the-books. The man was skilled. However, he was still young(not that Lucius could talk) and this was his first security detail. He wasstill getting used to dealing with ‘civilians’. Like how the best way to breaknews was not to burst breathlessly into a room like the building was on fire.

“Dr. Sykes—”

“Ryans!” Carlyle barked. Ryans’ steps faltered.“This is a private meeting. Whatever it is can wait until after.”

Ryans quickly assessed the situation and stoodup straight. He didn’t look embarrassed, maybe only slightly annoyed that hisobjective had been hampered. “I apologize, sir, but it can’t. I need Dr.Sykes.”

“He can join youafter.”

“It’s urgent, sir.”

A sense of foreboding flared deep in Lucius’gut. Nothing good ever followed a line like that. Had his mother died? Shehadn’t been feeling particularly well lately, but then, she never was. Maybe somethinghad happened to someone he knew. That’d be a short list. Being the onlysixteen-year-old at his college meant it hadn’t exactly been easy to makefriends. Even now, at twenty, making friends still wasn’t his strong suit.

“It’s all right, Carlyle,” Lucius said,gathering his papers and standing. “I’m sure Ryans wouldn’t waste my timeunless it was really important. Catch me up when I get back, okay?”

Carlyle merely nodded. As he left, Lucius sworehe saw a triumphant look on Dr. Van’s face just as he stepped out into thehallway and shut the door behind him.

“Now, what’s so urgent that you had to save mefrom being bored to death?” Sykes said, trying to lighten the mood and staveoff his own dread.

Ryans didn’t crack a smile. “You’d better justcome see, Dr. Sykes.”

He led the way down the hall lined with conferencerooms and out into the open area that acted as the main research and productionfloor of the project.

It was as big as a gymnasium, with screens adozen feet wide at the front like they were set up for the world’s greatestSuper Bowl party. Rows of computer-crowded desks ringed around the front. Justbehind them, the benches were lined with test tubes, centrifuges, distillingmaterials.

To maintain the secrecy of the operation, thefunding for the project had been used to create an underground bunker,stretching beneath the streets of Queensbury, North Carolina. Not even thesewer maintenance workers knew they were here. The techs and other doctors worelong white lab coats. It was cold this far underground, and it worked to theiradvantage. Most of the things they worked with required cooler temperatures tooperate.

“The suspense is killing me, Ryans,” Luciussaid, giving a warm laugh.

“Sir, I don’t know who—they must haveknown all the doctors were in a meeting or somebody would have heard. But I promiseI will double patrols around here from now on. I’ll do them personally if Ihave to.”

Ryans led him back towards the hallwayscontaining the doctor’s personal offices. Back towards Lucius’.

Even from a distance Lucius could tell there wassomething wrong with his office door. And then he knew why the second Ryansgrimly pushed it open. It should have been locked. It would have been, if thelock and handle hadn’t been smashed in.

“It’s bad, sir,” Ryans said, stepping aside.

Destruction. Bookshelves flipped over, theircontents a shredded mass, like someone had taken scissors to them. Paperstossed like confetti; the framed degrees and pictures on his walls smashed in,littering glass across the floor.

Anger, white hot, bubbled under his skin. He clenchedhis hands into fists so hard he swore his fingers would break. And then, with awillpower honed over years of practice, he let it all go. Almost.

“Sir?” Ryans said.

“I’m fine, Ryans.” He stepped over broken glassfrom a picture frame. “Let’s see what the damage is.”

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