It was nearing evening. It had been a quiet, routine day and Doctor Marshall and his team were looking forward to going home, though before they could there was some paperwork to finish up. Considering the nature of their research, careful notes had to be taken on everything to record all success, failure, and any changes that occurred. They worked in a government funded facility that resided in Washington somewhere near the border between the United States and Canada. The exact location was secret and only known to those who worked there.
Human cloning was illegal, but they operated under the guise that the subjects they were working with were not human. That wasn’t entirely true though. The subjects they’d created here had both animal and human DNA, though they were treated more like animals. Animals that were incredibly intelligent and sometimes equally dangerous but animals all the same.
Over the last few years they’d a handful of outstanding breakthroughs and though their third subject had recently been displaying a disturbing amount of defiance, they felt they were close to creating a perfect specimen.
“Are you alright, Doctor Marshall?” Martin, one of the lab techs, asked.
John Marshall looked up from the report that he was finishing. “Hmm? Yes, of course,” he replied.
“You seem tired,” Martin said, “Why don’t you go home and get some rest?”
Marshall took his glasses off for a moment to rub the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I will, just as soon as I finish this report.”
He was an older man, about forty-five, and his hair was just starting to gray at the temples. Once, he’d had a family, a wife and a beautiful daughter, though after his daughter had died in an unfortunate accident, his wife had divorced him. She'd claimed he’d grown too attached to his work and was shutting out everything else in his life, including her. Of course, he was obsessed; if they could perfect the process of creation they had started in this facility, then he would be able to have his daughter back. That wasn’t what their goal was supposed to be though, so he would just keep that to himself until the right time came. If anyone found out he could be fired, or worse.
After his report was finished and filed away, Marshall left his office, locking the door behind him. On his way towards the parking garage where his car was he said good night to the various security guards as he passed them. They'd worked together in the same building for years so they knew each other quite well by now and were on a first name basis.
The parking garage was dark and nearly empty, as most of the scientists on the day shift had gone home already and those on the night shift had yet to arrive. There was usually always a slight gap between the shifts for the scientists, though security was at the facility twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no exceptions. Along with the guards there was a twelve foot electrified fence around the whole complex, the top lined with many loops of barbed wire.
Marshall drove past the helipad on his way to the front gate, following the winding road through the gloom as the sun had sunk below the trees that surrounded the complex. He pulled to a stop at the guard house and the man inside was just about to open the gate for him when the phone began to ring.
“Just a minute, Doctor Marshall,” the guard said, and turned to take the call.
Marshall’s hands tightened around the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white. He said nothing as he waited.
“That is not Doctor Marshall.” It was one of the guards from inside the facility, on the other end of the phone. The tone of his voice said that something was very wrong. “Subject Three has escaped. Whatever you do, do not let it out of the compound. We’re preparing troops right now, but do not-”
The thing that was impersonating John Marshall knew that the charade was up. He could tell by the expression on the guard’s face as he dropped the phone in his haste to draw the gun holstered at his hip.
“Don’t move!” the guard shouted.
Subject Three chose not to listen. He put the car in gear and stomped on the gas pedal. The car lurched forward, crashing into the chain link gate and taking it down, however, the gate stuck to the hood of the car, making it difficult to see and steer. There was no way he was going to get away like this, so he turned the wheel sharply until he was careening towards the trees.
Steering with one hand, he unbuckled his seatbelt with the other, preparing to jump from the car. He shoved the door open and then dove away from the vehicle as it crashed into a tree. He would be able to lose them easier in the woods anyway; it was part of his training, after all. If only all of those scientists had known that one day all of that intensive training they had put him through would aid him in his escape. Of course, he was nowhere near free yet, but this was a start. He hit the ground hard and rolled, wincing a bit as he was jabbed by stones and twigs. For the most part, he was resilient and bounced back quickly from these sorts of things.
After he rolled to a stop, he sprang to his feet, deciding now was as good a time as any to shed his disguise. The face and body of John Marshall melted away and shifted into the appearance of a boy in his late teens. He was just over five feet tall, thin and pale, the tone someone would be if they didn’t spend much time outside in the sun. His hair fell to his shoulders and was white--not pale blonde, just white, devoid of color--and his eyes were a bright blue. He was definitely not what something created in a government laboratory was expected to look like by the general people.
Subject Three threw a glance back over his shoulder towards the complex and then took off running into the forest. He had already ripped the tracking chip out of the back of his neck earlier, which was why they hadn’t noticed he was missing from his room until they’d discovered Doctor Marshall’s body. That didn’t mean that any one of the dozens of men they were sure to send after him wouldn’t be able to apprehend him and take him back to the complex though. For now, he was way ahead of them. If his mental calculations were correct, they were likely still gathering the troops together to send out. They would arrive soon enough and he had a very limited amount of time to put as much distance between himself and the complex as possible.
It was swiftly growing dark in the woods, a chill setting in seeing as how the weather had gotten cooler recently. Despite the fact he could see better in the dark than humans since that was the way he'd been engineered, he still slipped on the dead leaves that carpeted the forest floor. His keen balance did nothing to save him from them, and they were slick from the rainstorm that had passed through the area that morning. The too-big doctor’s shoes he was wearing didn’t make matters any better either. He lost his balance and landed hard on his side, the impact knocking all the breath from his lungs. Winded, he rolled down an incline, stopping only when he hit a rotting log. Catching his breath, he lay still for a moment and listened to his surroundings. Off in the distance he could hear the sounds of soldiers talking to each other as they tromped through the woods. They weren’t making much of an effort to be quiet, but then again, they could merely be a distraction.
Subject Three sat up, quickly pulling off the too-large shoes and throwing them as far away from him as he could manage. Then he stood up, ignoring his now damp and dirty clothes, along with the wet leaves stuck in his hair, and started running again. He found he could move faster without the shoes, though now objects jabbed at his feet through the thin socks he was left with. He ignored the pain and continued running. It was nothing compared to what they would do to him if they caught him and returned him to the facility. Hell, for all he knew, they could just decide to kill him this time, drag his corpse back, and then dissect him.
Spotlights suddenly lit up the forest around him and he dodged to the side to avoid being illuminated. A pair of choppers flew by overhead as he pressed back against a tree trunk and he narrowed his eyes as he gazed up through the cover of tree branches. The sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the air was loud and clear and it caused various woodland creatures to flee into their burrows. Subject Three wished he had his own burrow to hide in, but instead he ran, avoiding the sweeping spotlights as the choppers circled around.
There was the sound of running water ahead and he veered towards it, ending up splashing into a creek after a few minutes. The water was icy and he gasped but kept moving. If they sent dogs after him, water would help to hide his tracks. He slipped once on the rocks that lined the creek bed and nearly fell, water splashing up to the knees of his pants, but he caught himself before he could go down completely. Pressing onward, he listened to the sound of the soldiers behind him, the helicopters above, and the sound of the water as it grew louder. The creek grew into a good sized river that he had to struggle through, the current streaming around his knees.
In his haste, he didn’t notice when the river suddenly dropped away until he was teetering on the edge of the waterfall. He flailed his arms uselessly and then plummeted over the edge. It wasn’t too much of a fall, but the water that he landed in was so cold that it stole the breath from his lungs and the strength from his limbs. His survival instincts told him to swim and he began to kick, pushing himself up towards the surface. His head popped out of the water and he immediately gasped in a deep breath of air. Mist from the waterfall beside him struck his face as he worked on keeping himself afloat.
When he was about to swim for shore, he looked around and happened to spot a small hollow behind the waterfall. It was small and dark and just might provide enough cover should he decide to hide there. Very quickly, he debated his options. He could heave himself out of this lake and try to warm himself up enough to run like he had been before or he could wedge himself into the space behind the waterfall and hope the soldiers would overlook it just like he almost had.
Ultimately, he chose the second option. He swam over to the waterfall and pulled himself up onto the rocks that had been worn smooth by the river. They were damp and spray was constantly misting over him but it was for these exact reasons he hoped they would fail to notice he was back there. Shivering and pulling his wet clothes tightly around himself, he curled up as much as possible and closed his eyes. That didn’t mean he stopped paying attention to his surroundings though. Subject Three listened intently to the helicopters as they circled over the forest. He listened to the soldiers pushing through the brush as they passed by where he was hiding, and he remained motionless, praying they wouldn’t notice him. He continued listening and hoping right up until the moment he lost consciousness from the cold, dreamless sleep washing over him.