The clinic was bright and spotless, even at this time of the night. This made Doctor Deirdre Mason reasonably happy, despite the fact she was having to make her rounds at midnight on a Saturday.
At twenty-eight, Dr. Mason was still single. She'd dated several men over the years, mostly other medical or scientific professionals, since that was pretty much the only sort of guy she met on her all-consuming career track.
A slim five-foot-two brunette, Deirdre, rarely had time for anything else but her job. It had occurred to her she hadn't tried to make the time for a serious relationship, for her work fascinated her, and it paid very well. Most other women her age would probably envy her success. Still, it would have been nice to have had the weekend off...
Her patients all seemed to be doing as expected, even though they were really more research subjects than patients. At least they didn't smell as badly as they had when they were first brought in. They were all men, and all street drunks. Dirty, unkempt, with long matted hair and scraggly beards, they had repulsed her. Nevertheless, this project stood a very good chance of making them healthier and more well-adjusted citizens.
Deirdre's specialty was genetics, and she worked for a large biotech firm, Bio Solutions, a subsidiary of the wealthy and internationally connected Memphis Corporation.
The subjects had been recruited based on their clear addiction to alcohol, the illness which Bio Solutions' new genetics experiment was aimed at curing. Studies over the last ten years had identified a clear genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. Added to this was the tissue damage as well as the damage to the basic DNA from the alcohol poisoning. Bio Solutions' new formula was intended to correct all these deficiencies, and Deirdre was excited to be a part of such a revolutionary medical application of genetics. The project was code named Alconon.
Of course, not all the subjects were volunteers in the strictest sense of the term. In fact, most of them were too wasted to even be aware they were being treated.
Earlier that night, the subjects, she really didn't like to think of such repellent losers as patients, in rooms 11 and 12 had been sloppy drunk from the liquor the clinic had supplied, the scientists wanting the test of the serum to be as tough as possible. The subject in room 12 had tried to grope her, but he was too drunk and slow.
Patient 13 was probably the worst of the lot. In addition to being dirty, smelly, and drunk, he looked grotesque. Apparently, he had been in a horrible accident at some time in the distant past. The right side of his face was badly scarred, his right eye was a milky white, and there was a large dent in the right side of his forehead. The total effect was repulsive. In his drunken state, she supposed he was harmless, but he was so big, and old, and mean looking, that she entered Room 13 with some trepidation. 13 had never touched her, unlike 12, but she remained wary. There was something creepy about him.
The subject wasn't in his bed. Moving into the room more fully, she saw him lying on the floor on the far side, writhing in apparent agony while holding his head in his hands. He was moaning piteously.
She immediately pulled her two-way radio and said into it, "Emergency! Emergency! Possible negative reaction. I say again, possible negative reaction!"
In less than thirty seconds, two large male nurses rushed into the room. She pointed at Patient 13 and said, "Possible negative reaction to the serum. Strap him to the bed, and take some blood. We'll need to analyze the blood work as quickly as possible!" The two men lifted the struggling form onto the bed and strapped him down, the straps being readily available for just this sort of problem.
Once the subject was secured, Dr. Mason came closer to examine him. 13 was still moaning in apparent pain. Was she imagining things, or did the crease in his forehead look shallower? Just then, Patient 13's eyes snapped open, and he surged against the restraints with a wordless bellow.
Deirdre reflexively jerked back, but the restraints held. It was then she realized the patient's right eye, which had been milky white when he was brought in, was now a startling clear blue!
"Well, it's reasonable to assume the serum caused this remarkable reaction, but I don't see how," said the still-stunned Doctor Mason. "This gene complex was supposed to focus in on the chromosome which caused a predisposition towards alcoholism. It was not supposed to result in major tissue regeneration."
Doctor Richard Lennox, the bio-geneticist in charge of the clinic's operations, responded in his usual smug and patronizing way, saying, "True. But Deirdre, you must remember, part of the gene complex in the serum was designed to repair damage to the major organs caused by the alcoholism poisoning. In the case of this street person, the complex may have repaired other tissue damage we didn't envision. We may have stumbled upon something much more powerful than a cure for alcoholism!"
Deirdre noticed how he referred to Patient 13 as a "street person", making him seem somewhat less than human. She could also see the visions of fame and fortune in his eyes at the thought of coming up with a miracle cure. She suspected 13 was about to become a glorified lab rat.
She actually felt kind of sorry for 13, even if he was kind of a derelict. It didn't occur to her that an hour ago, she, too, had been treating the patients as semi-human. 13, at least, had suddenly become more human to her.
While Lennox was busy envisioning his bright future and rehearsing awards acceptance speeches, Dr. Mason made her way back to room 13 to see how the subject of all this furor was doing.
She was surprised to find him still restrained, with a large orderly watching over him as though he were a ticking time bomb.
Deirdre said exasperatedly, "Please remove the restraints. We can always replace them if he has another seizure."
The orderly looked dubious, which further irritated Dr. Mason. She didn't know whether it was sexism or simple stupidity, and didn't care.
"Take the restraints off, now!" she repeated, letting a little of her anger show.
The orderly complied.
She stood by the edge of the bed and asked, "How are you feeling?"
Since all she'd heard from this man was what amounted to incoherent growls and mumbles, she was surprised when he replied, in a voice sounding rusty with disuse, "Where am I? And who are you?"
She checked his pulse and examined his pupils for dilation in the event of concussion. He had been thrashing around pretty violently.
"My name is Doctor Mason," she replied. "You seemed in a great deal of pain, earlier. Have you ever had convulsions before?"
He seemed to ignore her question, and then asked, "A doctor? Am I in a hospital?"
She pursed her lips. "Well, not exactly. This is a clinic. You don't remember coming here?" Probably not totally surprising, given the amount of alcohol he'd saturated his system with.
Suddenly, his arm shot out, grabbing her by the wrist. The bulky orderly surged forward, but she waved him off.
Patient 13 said, "I can't remember anything!"
His startling blue eyes stared at her. They reminded her of Paul Newman's eyes.
She said, calmly, "This may sound silly, but do you know whether you had been suffering from amnesia prior to admission to our clinic?"
He released her hand. A glint of wry humor flashed through those blue eyes, and he replied, "You know, I can't remember if I have amnesia!"
They both laughed.
What beautiful eyes! she thought.
Over the next several days, Dr. Deirdre Mason found time to look in on Patient 13 several times. He fascinated her. His healing seemed to be continuing rapidly. She took pictures of his face and body right after his seizure, and the scar, as well as the dent in his skull, were both measurably diminished.
13 even seemed affable most of time, although he occasionally had a muddled look in his eyes. At other times, he seemed to be a thousand miles away. She credited that largely to the heavy blood-alcohol level he'd had when he came in to the clinic.
Unknown to Deirdre Mason, Dr. Lennox had his own plans for Patient 13. Along with two burly male attendants, Lennox had decided to take 13 to the lab for a full physical workup. He just couldn't wait to start submitting papers to the medical journals, chronicling how he, Dr. Richard Lennox, had single-handedly invented a cure for mankind's ills!
When the trio entered room 13, the subject was sound asleep. He still looked grubby, almost subhuman to Lennox. The doctor peremptorily grabbed one of 13's arms to pull him out of bed. Patient 13 swatted Lennox's hand away and turned over to go back to sleep.
"Bring him along!" Lennox ordered the two beefy orderlies. One of the two grabbed 13's arm, just as Lennox had. Again, the patient just swatted the offending hand away. The orderly looked a bit surprised at the ease with which this was accomplished. With a gesture to his partner, the orderly grabbed 13 on one arm just as his partner grabbed the other arm.
13 came fully awake from a vivid dream in which he had been battling with strange weapons. The dream combat translated abruptly into a reality where two bruisers were manhandling him. Then, he felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder and turned to see Dr. Lennox with a smug smirk on his face and an empty syringe in his hand.
Lennox figured he could afford to be smug. The tranquilizer he had just injected into 13 was strong enough to knock out a horse. It should put the wasted physique of the patient out in moments, and keep him out.
13 slumped for a moment, and then, quite suddenly, he straightened, looked at the two orderlies, and said in a commanding voice, "Unhand me, you louts! How dare you lay hands upon me?"
The orderlies answered by trying to pull 13 toward the door. There was no way an emaciated old man could hope to resist them.
Then something happened. Suddenly, there was a look in 13's eyes that Lennox had never seen in a human's eyes before. It was the look of an enraged predator.
13's reflexes took over and, suddenly, the two orderlies were flying through the air, meeting the wall with a resounding thud.
Lennox didn't have long to appreciate his realization that the drug hadn't worked. In two gliding steps 13 was on the person who had just hurt him. 13's first blow broke Lennox's jaw. The second shattered three ribs. The final blow was a kick to the doctor's crotch, lifting him up off the floor and propelling him across the hospital bed. He came to a stop in a fetal position against the far wall.
13 glided noiselessly out into the hallway, searching for a way out of the clinic. Two hallways down, he spied a glowing red EXIT sign. Within minutes he faded out into the warm autumn night.