20,095 / 50,000
Brendan briefly wondered what abilities he would exhibit, if he survived this long enough to show any at all. Did the changes that Doctor McKenzie had made to the operation change things to the point that all they had done was transform this room into a giant microwave? He could just end up dead before the energy blast was done.
The end couldn't come quick enough, thought Brendan. The pain he felt was almost unbearable. If things were similar enough to the earlier experiments, he wondered how anyone could have stood it long enough. Brendan found himself almost wishing for death, if only to end his suffering. Even with their military training, how could any of them have endured this? Through the haze of pain needling at his brain, Brendan remembered the few amongst the many who had passed through that door that did not scream as they sat, clamped down to that chair.
He focused on those people, those few who fought against the pain, gritting his teeth against the it. How much longer would this go on for? Had something gone wrong with the settings? Would it ever power down? Surely the emitter had been on longer than usual. it felt as if he had been hunkered down beneath the barrel of the device for hours on end.
Grunts and groans still escaped past his lips, but he refused to scream, no matter how much he may have felt the need. He would remain strong, until his very last moment, which must surely be around the corner, the Grim Reaper ready to rear his skull and cut Brendan down like so much chaff before his scythe.
Brendan knew he would never see Alphonse again, not get a chance to crack one last joke, flash one last easy-going smile. He could feel his life ebbing away, his will faltering. He would be dead long before that door to his left, which he could no longer see even if he looked, ratcheted open and medical crews came rushing in.
Or maybe, just maybe, his suffering would not come alone. Maybe it brought with it the answers they sought, and he could survive, the first of many.
Maybe the flames he felt engulfing his soul were ones of rebirth, and not destruction. The radiation caused massive changes, even under the best of conditions, and this pain that wracked through his body could be only that, and nothing more. It was a slim hope, but he grasped at it, praying that somehow, amidst this accident, that he could walk out the door, passing out of these flames, even for the briefest of seconds.
As if to refute his claims, Brendan's body began to convulse. His focus crumbled within him, and he would have let loose another scream through the halls of this mysterious lab, if he could. He tried to sit up, but his muscle control faded away, and his body slumped down against the floor.
Like a fish removed from a lake and tossed in the bottom of a boat, his body flopped there on the hard, smooth tiles of the target room. Brendan's mind went blank, as he found himself unable to focus beyond the pain, and drowned in throes of his seizure.
He had become so out of it, that he failed to notice that the room was no longer filled with the light of a thousand suns. The machinery continued to hum, as it powered down as slowly as it had charged up. It was programmed to slowly dissipate the energy within it, and allow it to die down gradually, rather than trying to shut it off like a switch.
Other machines sprung into life, as the cleaning procedures began. They detected no presence of any foreign, harmful material in the room, but they continued to scan, waiting to see if the body which still flopped around on the floor would suddenly begin sending off just such things that would need to be kept in this room. Not all changes happened instantly, so every subject was required to stay within the locked box of a room until they were certain that everything was clear.
Since every subject had passed away within 30 minutes of the emitter powering down enough to cease flooding the room with particles, that had been deemed the arbitrary cut off point, despite some people wishing to keep it sealed longer, just in case someone took several days to display any abilities. No one wanted to let a person that was little more than a walking nuclear bomb suddenly manifest in the streets of a major city. It had so far been a moot point. If anyone had developed any dangerous emission abilities, the doors would have remained shut.
Alphonse heard the emitter's apartus power down from the safe zone he had made his way to, waiting out the cycle. He had only barely made it past the red line they had marked out in tape across the hallway, along the walls, ceiling and floor, marking a wide radius in case another catastrophe occurred.
He had only stood there, just beyond the tape, for a few mere seconds before his feet were once again pounding along the tiled floor, as if he had heard a starter pistol go off in his head.
It did not take him long to run the distance down the halls, with only a few sharp turns between the safe zone and the main emitter rooms deep within the facility. The winding halls formed several thick baracades of walls between the area of safety, and the possible exploding device.
He ran right past the room he had spent almost the entirety of the last 24 hours in. Alphonse skidded to a halt, leaving marks along the floor behind him, and pressed his nose up against the thick pane of glass embedded within the quarantine door. There was a lead-lined slider that normally would be closed over it during a firing, but it had been left open in the panic that ensued after the unexpected ignition.
The cartilege of his nose expanded and smooshed up against the glass, as Alphonse tried looking through the small portal, seeking out where his friend could possibly be.
The tiny window only afforded a clear view of the smallest portion of the room. It was mainly there for people outside the chamber to check on the subject in their chair, before entering, if they weren't in the main room where the emitter was situated, and they could see everything through the large series of safety glass panes in there.
Waiting out the tests from those rooms was not reccomended, for fear of leakage from the cannon itself, however some people had chanced it, with no ill effects. Alphonse had always opted to retire beyond the safety markings, though. He did it more out of his fear of the device exploding again, than any fear of radiation itself.
Alphonse could not see Brendan through the small window, and for a moment, wondered if the new settings for the emitter had vaporised him outright. Following that, he wondered if Brendan had become invisible, or somehow teleported out of the room under his own power.
In his frantic search, the doctor had forgotten about the other room. By that time, it would have been cleared and unsealed almost instantly, unless a genuine leak from the machinery itself had occurred. As his mind raced to conceive options that would have enabled Brendan to have survived, and not be seen through the small glass opening in the quarantine door, he eventually remembered that there was a much larger window he could be looking through.
He snapped his fingers at the second he had his "eureka" moment. He reflexively closed the lead lined hatchway over the glass. Then moving swiftly but not as fast as he had from the more remote outskirts of the facility, he went down to the door he had exited what was only a mere five minutes ago.
Reaching into one of his pants pockets, he fished out his wallet, and removed a small swipe card, and swished it through the reader attached to the keypad outside the door, a twin to the one in the wall beside the targetting chamber.
While Alphonse did possess the lone code that could be used on the keypads to override the door locks, he fought past his desire to retrieve his friend, and instead forced himself to follow procedure, and only used the regular code, and unlocked the cleared emitter room.
The door's locking mechanisms disengaged, and it slide back into its recess in the wall. With his impatience, it felt like it was grinding back along its gears at a snail's pace, and he squeezed his slightly pudgy form through the widening maw of the door once it was about halfway opened, unwilling to wait the few extra seconds it would really take to open entirely.
His eyes adjusted to the darker nature of the room, but not too much before his gaze turned through the smoky haze of the wall of glass between him and Brendan.
And there he was, laying out on the floor, on his back, only the slightest of twitches still flickering through his body. If not for those brief moments of jerking, Brendan would almost appear to be laying there peacefully.
Alphonse saw where his friend had laid down, and remembered the tests to guage the penetration density of the energy throughout the room. Always thinking, even to your last moments, aren't you, he thought.
He winced as the words "last moments" floated through his mind, and vowed that if these were indeed to be Brendan's last moments, then Brendan would spend them here, with him.
The wait for the sensors in the other room to finish up their procedure and declare the room clean dragged on for an eternity. Brendan's remaining convulsions eventually faded away, and his body became motionless. Alphonse was unable to determine if the young man remained alive, or if the end had come before the door could be opened. He tried to see if he was breathing, but it was hard to tell with any level of certainty this far away from the body, and through so many layers of the safety glass. Alphonse even found himself down on his knees, and face pressed against the glass for any sign of life coming from Brendan, the barest hint of the rise and fall of his chest, a twitch, but to no avail.
Finally, after an eterniy had passed, a green light flashed above the thick panes of glass, signifying that the room had achieved a passing grade, and enough time had passed.
As much as he wanted to, Alphonse did not race out of the room, and down the hall. By now, whether he raced, or kept his wits about him and moved normally, would make no difference. Brendan's fate was pretty much sealed, and the lack of visible movement made it clear what it would be, and no matter how soon he got through the quarantine door, it would not make a difference.
He stood in front of the heavy white door, and once again swiped his card and punched in the release code for the day, and this time he waited for the door to roll back entirely before passing through the threshold.
His pace was somber, and his look dour, as he moved over to Brendan's prone form, sure of what he would find there. No one had ever survive this long after exposure to the energy. While it had been unexpected, this had indeed been a test, and he tried to force himself to think of this as if it was just any other body that had come into the room.
The most amazing thing though, was there was no sign of any changes within Brendan. His body was still the same. It hadn't even grown or morphed at all, as evidenced by his clothes being completely intact. There was also no evidence of any damage within the room from any expression of powers.
He kneeled down beside the body, and grabbed Brendan's arm, checking for a pulse. As he lifted up the arm, Brendan shot bolt upright, and let out a loud gasp, struggling for air. The only thing Alphonse noticed was the glowing silver eyes his friend now had.