It was very nearly dawn by the time Soren arrived back at his lab, the eastern sky a pale pinkish yellow capped by an inky starry blue. He stood for a moment at the top of his hill, looking out over the darkened city. The twinkling lights of the street lamps and the office buildings were gone, as was the usual traffic noise. The hum of a busy city getting ready for work now silenced forever. All was still. Peaceful. Orderly. A stiff breeze tugged at his thick dark hair, whipping it wildly about his head, and he inhaled deeply, savoring the early fall scent of leaves and grass carried upon it. Not even a winging bird disturbed the perfect tranquility of this moment. His moment. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket to guard against the chill and, feeling the object nestled inside, smiled, smugly satisfied. He had known it would work, his calculations precise, his craftsmanship superb. Still, having successfully tested it on this scale was its own vindication.
He took the keys from his pocket and turned to the door of his lab. Now his real work could begin. As he slid the key into the lock, a familiar shiver of pleasure ran over him. Time seemed to stretch out and he felt as though he were one with the mechanism. He was the key, moving each tumbler into its proper place. And then, quivering, he felt the click as the key yielded to the gentle pressure and twist of his hand. Sighing softly, he pushed open the door.
In one motion, he switched on the lights and stuffed the keys back into his pocket before turning to close and lock the door behind him. He leaned against the door, gathering his thoughts, before turning to face what he knew the chaos that still awaited him here.
Naturally the lab smelled nothing like it usually did—of ozone and cleanliness and order, of sterile scientific instruments, precisely and systematically arranged, every object in its place, waiting patiently for his return. No. Of course this morning the smell of human sweat hung heavy in the air. Sweat and blood. His breath caught. He had nearly forgotten about the blood. Given what had happened here last night, he was surprised the stench of blood wasn’t heavier. It was then that the full force of what had happened struck him.
Mostly, the lab was a tumbled mess of shattered glass and stainless steel instruments, but there were a few objects untouched by the frenzied chaos endured only hours ago. Here, a lab chair upturned on a melted lump of plastic and metal that probably had been his computer. There, a jar of formaldehyde that contained a preserved fetal cat, untouched by the apparent violence surrounding it. One might think he’d placed the jar there just now had it not been for the destruction that blocked the way.
The blood, mixing with other spilled liquids, ran down toward the industrial drain in the center of the room and had become a morbid dark and thickened rivulet. Unwilling, Soren’s eyes followed the stream to its source.
Their struggle had been epic in a way, evidenced by the massive damage done to the lab. But in the end, it was his own super-strength that Soren was able to use against him. Soren had only to step aside as the man, desperate to save the city, unwittingly threw himself onto the rebar that had popped from the concrete wall during the fray. The force of the fool’s momentum backed by his super-strength had driven it completely through the left eye socket and out the back of his head, pinning him to the wall like a mounted trophy, killing him instantly.
Soren picked his way over to the lifeless body of the fallen hero, standing for a moment so closely his nose nearly touched the man’s cheek. He fought the bile rising in his throat. “No hard feelings, man,” Soren said to him, a low growl. “I just had to show them I was right.” Then, he took the keys out of his pocket and dropped them to the floor at his feet. This lab was no longer large enough for his needs. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, running his thumb over the object within. Then he made is way back to the door and quietly left.