The telephone rang. Dr Aleksei Kuznetsov watched the thick black receiver rattle as the internal bell shook the hard case. It was 2340 hours and Aleksei knew that it could only be coming from one place. He took a breath and picked up the receiver, feeling a knot of anxiety begin to take form.
“Yes?” He let out the breath.
“Sir, it’s Henry, sir,” Came the voice from the other side. “It’s Subject 448, sir, he’s awake.”
Aleksei clenched his eyes shut and blinked a number of times.
“I’m here,” Aleksei replied, “Is he verbal?”
“Is it binary?”
“No, sir, it’s Russian. He’s speaking Russian! But it doesn’t make much sense.”
Aleksei moved his head around, trying to stretch the muscles in his neck. “Where do you have him?”
“I’ve ordered he be brought into the lab immediately, sir.”
Aleksei looked again at the clock on the wall, “Right, once he is there, use the helmet and no one is to have any interaction with him until I arrive. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Aleksei slowly placed the receiver back onto the cradle. He walked over to the bookshelf and removed a thick volume. He pulled an envelope from between the pages and placed it on his desk.
He first went to each of his children’s rooms and then went to see his sleeping wife. She stirred awake when he gently touched her cheek.
“Love, something has come up at the lab, I need to go but I shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours.” He said softly close to her ear.
“Mmm, okay.” She mumbled back.
He kissed her cheek and collecting his things, left the house.
After passing through security, Aleksei drove his car to his reserved space in front of his laboratory. He used his access card at the door and passed the guard without a word. Henry came to meet him outside the observation lab.
“Henry, how is the subject?”
“He stopped talking since we put on the helmet, sir, just sitting there quietly.” Henry said as he held the door open for Aleksei.
The laboratory was stark, with dim lighting and no heating. There were six other technicians in the room milling around Subject 448, a man in his early thirties, dressed in a loose light blue surgical robe, his head wrapped in worn bandages, topped with a metal helmet. An angry scar ran down his left forearm, showing recent sutures.
Aleksei placed his briefcase on a table and raised his voice, “Everybody out.”
Henry looked startled, “Sir?”
Aleksei lowered his voice again and added, “Except you Henry, you can stay. Lock the door once they leave.”
As the technicians filed out, muttering amongst themselves, Aleksei approached Subject 448, the knot in his stomach clenching in anticipation and trepidation.
“Good evening Stepan,” He said as he unfastened the helmet strap under the subject’s chin. “Let’s see what you have to tell us.”
He lifted the helmet and almost instantly, Subject 448 started, “STOPCURRENTCONFUSION- ANDCONTINUINGCHAOSENEMYWITHBREAKINGAPARTOURMILITARYINCURSIONINT- ONORTHERNWITHEASETHEIRINJUSTICESOURFATHERSLAIDOUTFORUSTOGETHEROUR- NATIONSDEATHTOLLMOUNTSKNEWYOURPARENTSFUNDINGFORFARMINGMOUNTING- INVASIONSTOCKPILESPOLITICALTENSIONSPOSITIONUPCOMINGCONFERENCEMARRED- WHENSUMMITOFNATIONSPREMIERTOGETHER...”
“He doesn’t seem to have any coherent theme, it just sounds like rubbish.” Henry said over the top of Subject 448.
“No Henry, it sounds to me like he is picking up public radio signals, probably switching through the bands.”
“If that’s the case, it shouldn’t be hard to narrow the frequencies to whatever we wanted.”
“Let’s see,” Aleksei said as he placed the helmet back on the subjects head. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his pass card and placed the magnetic strip onto the subject’s forehead.
Aleksei removed the card and said, “This card doesn’t have very much information but what he said sounded accurate enough. Henry, I think we have been successful.”
He sighed and reached into his other pocket, withdrawing a Makarov pistol he pointed it at Henry.
“Sir?” Henry asked, more surprised than afraid.
“He should never have woken up. I tried to ensure that he would remain catatonic until he died.”
“You induced the circulation complication?” Henry asked, bewildered.
Aleksei nodded, “Can you imagine what will happen if a government gets their hands on this? Especially our government? We wouldn’t even need to make weapons, we could annihilate our enemies with their own and they wouldn’t even know it was us. But this cold war has gone on for many years and no side has yet pressed the button. If we live, it is certain that he will be used and millions will die. We can’t let that happen.”
Henry now looking more afraid asked, “But what about all the documentation?”
“Destroyed. Replaced with rubbish that will take them years to figure out that it is so. You and I are the only ones that could create the monster again. I’m so sorry, I wish there were another way.”
Aleksei took the step between them, embraced Henry and pressing the pistol to his chest, he pulled the trigger.
With tears upon his cheeks, Aleksei lowered Henry gently to the floor and turned to Subject 448.
“I’m sorry for what I have done to you Stepan.” He raised the gun and shot Subject 448 in the head.
He could hear them attacking the door now, but was satisfied they were too late. He raised the gun to his own head and prayed a silent prayer for his wife and children.