My name is Dana. At least, it used to be. I go by a different name these days. In fact, my life is different in every way. Now I get to fly all over the world, staying in the best hotels, attending top line scientific conferences, where I earn the respect of all my peers. Yeah, my life is pretty great. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how all of this happened.
It started around a year ago. Back then I was still Dana, a twenty-two year old research assistant to Dr Theseus Jones, a world-renowned expert on scientific ethics at the Anthromorph Institute. The Institute had been funded by the government and was Dr Jones’ personal project. His job was to enforce ethical standards in our area of science, and above all, to make sure that no-one dabbled in animal-human hybrids.
You may think that sounds a little far-fetched. I mean, animal-human hybrids? Well if there’s one thing you should know about the science world, it’s this: if you can think of an experiment, there will be someone somewhere who’s already trying it. In my months working at the Anthromorph Institute, I saw some unbelievable things, things that would blow your mind. But none of them compared to what happened when we investigated Dr Minos.
I was too junior to be involved in an investigation. In fact, throughout my nine months at the Institute, I had learned that I was too junior to be involved in anything, other than being the eye candy for the male scientists – which was all of them. Every time I walked into the lab, no matter how modest my clothing or how severely I’d tied my hair back, or how bulky my lab coat was, I could feel them all leering at me. Some days I just wanted to stand in the middle of the lab and scream at them. Hadn’t they ever seen a woman before?
Dr Jones, fortunately, wasn’t like that. I never caught him leering at me. On the other hand, he was rude, obnoxious and arrogant. Not just with me, but as the youngest member of the team, I seemed to bear the brunt of it. So when he walked into the lab, barked out my name and then disappeared back into his office one morning, I closed my eyes. With a feeling of dread, I trudged across the lab and walked into his office.
“You wanted to see me, Dr Jones?”
“I don’t want to see you, Miss Porter, but I have no choice. I’m heading out to carry out an enforcement order upstate and I need an assistant. Unfortunately, there is literally no-one else. These are the details. Get up to speed and meet me in the garage in an hour.”
With that, I was dismissed. Despite the familiar rudeness from Dr Jones, I was excited. An enforcement visit? That was where working for the Institute got serious. Every so often, a rogue unit or an unlicensed research facility failed to comply with an order so the FBI paid them a visit and one of our team got to go along. It was pretty damn exciting!
By the time I got down to the garage, I was pretty pumped, and I was up to speed on Dr Minos. A brilliant geneticist, dismissed from the Institute ten years previously, and rumored to be working on top secret borderline unethical projects, Dr Minos had been ordered to hand over his documentation a month ago, but had not complied.
His research facilities upstate were supposed to be some of the most impressive in the world, though no-one knew who was funding him. He had his own virtual kingdom, including labs, residential quarters, entertainment facilities and even his own airport. But Dr Minos had gone too far. Now we were going to enforce the order.
Oddly, though, there were no FBI personal around in the garage.
”Are we meeting the FBI there?” I asked Dr Jones.
“Not that I have to explain to the likes of you, Porter, but it won’t be necessary to have the FBI with us this time. I know Dr Minos. He is arrogant, but he isn’t foolish enough not to comply with a direct order from the Federal Government. Now, I would be grateful if you could ensure that your last inane comment is your last. I hate people talking when I drive.”
That was fine by me. Making conversation with Dr Jones was like trying to converse with a statue. An angry-looking statue. So I sat in the passenger seat as we sped out into the country heading north towards the research base known as the Maze.
We drove for an hour or so, then turned off the highway and headed down a gravel entrance road that must have been two miles or more before we arrived at a set of iron gates. Dr Jones got out the car and announced us and before he had resumed his seat, the gates had begun to creak and swing open, revealing the Maze.
It was seriously impressive. The path we followed was lined with immaculately trimmed hedges and statues of strange, mythical creatures: a dragon with several heads, a hideous old woman with the body of a snake, a swan with shapely curves and breasts. Up ahead of us was a huge country house, the kind that you only see in English films.
“Wow!” I muttered as we drew up in front of it.
We got out of the car and I hurried to catch up with Dr Jones. Before we had reached the top of the entrance steps, the massive oak doors opened. A blonde woman wearing an incredibly tight black body suit and shiny black boots, stood in the doorway.
“Dr Minos will see you now,” she said, then turned on her heels and led the way down a polished oak-lined corridor and then up a flight of stone stairs. At the top of the stairs, she opened a door and stood to one side, indicating that we should go in.
It was a kind of board room, dominated by a large desk at which sat Dr Minos. Around the room were portraits and pieces of art depicting all kinds of mythical creatures and myths and behind him a wide window showed a view of the whole site, including an enormous maze, that I presumed had given the place its name.
“Welcome Theseus, please do take a seat. And won’t you introduce me to your delightful assistant.”
“I’m Dana,” I said.
“Charmed,” said Dr Minos.
Dr Jones and I took the offered seats on the other side of the desk.
“Well, what can I do for you?”
“You know why we’re here,” said Dr Jones. “You have been given an order to hand over your research. It’s time to comply.”
Dr Minos smiled.
“I have done nothing wrong.”
“You forget,” said Dr Jones, “I have seen the files. I know what you are creating here, what you have created. That creature is an unethical abomination. Human animal hybrids are strictly in violation of Federal law.”
“Ah, but the creature to which you are referring is not an animal. Nor is it human. More importantly, I found it. I did not create it.”
Dr Minos smiled.
“Dr Jones, I know where to look. And if you spent more time on studying the wisdom of ancient civilizations, you would know too.”
“Enough,” snapped Dr Jones. “You will hand over the creature and you will hand over your research to me. Now.”
“Or the FBI will execute their warrant.”
“Hmm,” said Dr Minos. “You should know, Theseus, that I don’t take kindly to threats.”
“I don’t care about that.”
“That’s a shame. You really should.”
Dr Minos pressed a button on the desk. Dr Jones and his chair disappeared suddenly from view. There was a hole in the floor where he had been sitting. I heard a distant splash and then a burst of screaming before the trapdoor snapped back into place.
“What have you done?”
“I have simplified our situation. Dr Jones was boring me. I hope you don’t make the same mistake.”
I stood up and looked around me, but two guards were already coming into the room.
“Please take Dana to one of our rest rooms and make sure she is comfortable.”
One of the guards grabbed my arm and I tried to break free, but as I did so, the other guard pressed some kind of flannel onto my face. There was an overpowering chemical smell and I felt dizzy. The room began to spin and I closed my eyes.
* * * *
I was awoken by the sound of a heavy door opening. Slowly, I adjusted to my surroundings. It was a prison cell, with a stone floor and a high barred window. I was lying on a bench, covered by a thin blanket.
“Dr Minos wants you to put this on. You have five minutes.”
The woman in black threw a flimsy garment across my bed and smirked at me.
“No! Let me go! You can’t keep me prisoner.”
“I suggest you do as you are told. Dr Minos has given me orders to have you eliminated if you refuse to comply. You have five minutes.”
She smirked again and I watched her strut back out of the room, the heels of her black knee-length boots striking the stone floor hard. The door closed behind her and I was alone.
I picked up the clothes that she had left behind. They were incredibly flimsy and skimpy, just a white chiffon dress that was off the shoulder and would barely reach my thighs and a pair of strappy sandals. There was no way that I wanted to dress like that. On the other hand, I remembered what had happened to Dr Jones, so reluctantly, I stripped out of my trousers and blouse and slipped into the white dress. It was so light and delicate, it felt as though I was not even wearing any clothes.
The door to my cell opened. This time it was Dr Minos, with the same two guards who had taken me from my office.
“Ah, a true goddess. Utterly delightful. Yes. He will like you. He will like you very much.”
“Who will like me? What do you mean? You can’t keep me here like this!”
“Ah, but I can, my dear,” said Dr Minos. “Take her,” he said. I backed away but there was nowhere to hide. One of them grabbed me roughly and the other pressed another flannel into my face. I struggled and tried to shout, but I couldn’t stop myself from losing consciousness again as I watched Dr Minos’s smiling face blur and fade to black.
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