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Operation Phoenix

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Foreground, from the right: Korosz, Richards and Myself.

It could all have been so perfect. A place in history, was that so much to ask for? Nabokov once said, "Life is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." And how right he was.

The span of a human life is but a fraction of a second in the grand scale of time, it is insignificant to the universe. Since I was a young man, I wanted to be remembered; I wanted my legacy to live hundreds of years after my frail body has rotted into dust. In the past, man has searched in vain for eternal life—the infamous Fountain of youth, the Philosopher's stone and all the other elixirs of life—it is the same reason that religion is still so prominent today, no man wishes to accept his own mortality.

This was partly why I joined Operation Phoenix, when an old colleague of mine at the University introduced me to some classified documents and suggested that I could put my talents towards assisting them. At first I scoffed at the idea, but eventually I was drawn in. A pity, if I had listened to the nagging voice in my head that told me to stay away, I wouldn't be sitting here now. And by God if I could I would, maybe then I'd stop seeing their faces at night, maybe then I'd be able to sleep.

I'd like to be able to say that this vile affair took place in heart of the Soviet Union, or perhaps the depraved laboratories of the Third Reich, I really would—but in truth these experiments were all performed in the rolling fields of Albion, not far from the small village where I grew up. There is a small military base that has long since fallen into disrepair a few miles north of York that doesn't officially exist on any maps—civilian or military. But any who are brave or foolish enough to scale the wire fence and gain access to the dark hallways will find spent cartridges in the corners of the labyrinthine corridors and scraps of classified papers in heaps of ash in the long-abandoned laboratories.

Not much has survived the fire, but a savvy and observant interloper might piece together the story of what happened there. The whole place was torched after the incident to remove any traces of the evidence—blamed on troublesome youths from nearby towns for an arson attack that claimed the lives of almost a hundred MoD scientists. If you believe that ignorance is bliss, and that some things are best left buried—then I urge you to put down this note and forget about it. But if you value truth as much as I once did, then read on.

Operation Phoenix was a military-funded operation (looking back, their intentions were all too clear, but I was naive and blind to the Project's real goals) which at first made me uneasy, but Richards assured me it wouldn't be a problem. Shortly after my induction, Commander Huntingley sat me down and explained the project's aims. It seemed the project wasn't quite as far-fetched as I originally thought, yes they did seek to find the secrets of Immortality, but through surprisingly conventional methods. Rebirth—the phoenix is a legendary creature that would die, and be reborn from the ashes—hence "Operation Phoenix." I know, it's a terrible name but our focus was to unlock the secrets of genetic renewal, not waste time thinking of a catchy codename.

To put it simply, we were creating a serum to affect the host's genetics, when a cell dies it is replaced—but as you get old the cells stop getting replaced. The idea being, if we could unlock the secrets of genetic renewal, the host could live for much longer than his intended lifespan. Think what Einstein or Marx could have accomplished given but another ten years of life? This project was offering at least triple that. You can see the results of the project in my journal that I enclosed, but let me warn you, it isn't for the faint-hearted.

November 22nd 1982

The first load of test-subjects arrived today, and I can barely wait to begin the first trials of the experiment—imagine the glory we would receive if this project succeeds, my name would ring not just throughout Britain, but throughout the entire world. Batch one contains nine males and three females, all between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine, all fit and healthy—inmates of a nearby prison who were given the chance to reduce their sentences by becoming lab rats. The prototype serum has been administered to all subjects and they have been escorted to the holding area. The thought of what this experiment could achieve for mankind sends shivers down my spine.

December 2nd 1982

No major changes have been seen in any test subjects bar one: Patient M-4 has developed extreme abnormal aggression, this morning a guard caught him savaging Female Patient 2—the guard attempted to restrain him but M-4 mauled him and escaped. F-2 received heavy, but treatable, wounds to the neck, abdomen and face during the ordeal. A shame, she was a pretty girl. Male-4 was eventually brought down whilst attempting to scale the electrified perimeter fence—a guard in a nearby watchtower saw him tangled in razor wire and was forced to terminate him with a bullet to the head. We still don't fully understand why he did it, the patient seemed perfectly cooperative until this point. Perhaps this is a side-effect of the serum? Perhaps a result of his isolation? Who can say. A further two batches arrived today, with no particularly remarkable patients.

December 13th 1982

Sometimes I wonder if they understood the service they were doing to mankind whether they would act any differently—they're so passive and distant. Barely human. Something about them makes me uncomfortable, the way they shuffle around, never looking you in the eyes. It's like they hardly even notice the world around them. Sometimes I find myself hating them, don't they understand what effect the serum that they're helping to create would have on the course of human history? The serum has been altered and we administered it to batches two and three.

Huntingley wants the first batch to remain pure, a control group, to see if the others are affected similarly to Patient M-4. F-2 rejoined the first batch today, but she still shows extreme fatigue and unwillingness to co-operate with the scientists. The fourth and final batch also arrived today, just in time to replace losses. Many subjects are now showing extreme abnormal muscle growth, their practically skeletal frames struggling to support so much flesh. On a sadder note, Dr. Lee hung himself today, his knowledge and expertise will be missed.

Every scientist lost is at least a setback of a week, maybe more. Many others are abandoning the project, calling it inhumane—can't they see how much good can be done from doing a little evil? The ends shall justify the means.

February 9th 1983

Of the original four dozen, near two-thirds are now dead—subjects M-17, M-20 and F-8 showed promise but like the others, they eventually succumbed to Cardiogenic shock. It seems their circulatory systems have failed to cope with the addition of the excess muscle growth, each loss is an extreme frustration to all. The remaining dozen have been isolated in individual cells to prevent any accidents with other patients. Every day, more and more scientists are abandoning their workstations, their selfishness nearly caused the project to grind to a halt at one point, but once double-shifts were implemented, our work continued at a steady pace.

The few dozen scientists left, including Richards and myself, have been working frantically to meet the deadline but it seems our work is in vain, we simply don't have the manpower to complete the project. Curiously, the excess muscle growth is heavily laced with proteins from the serum and nobody is sure why. Lab reports also suggest it resists being broken down with organic acids, another mystery.

February 10th 1983

I saw them today, for the first time in weeks. They've changed so much since last time. They are no longer human, merely beasts of sinuous muscle. It made my stomach turn to just be in the same room as them. Their eyes follow you, as if examining you, but they remain motionless, slumped in the corner. Most are only able to make low guttural grunts, which sound almost melancholy. We are still yet to discover why they have lost use of their vocal chords, perhaps they are merely unwilling to speak? Richards was showing me the results of our experiments conducted earlier in the week when something completely unexpected happened—the patient lumbered up and banged on the reinforced window with all his might.

A crack appeared in the thick glass, and we both froze in fear. But the patient remained motionless in front of the window, not intent on breaking out as we first worried—it seemed to be more of an act of frustration or perhaps anger. He simply stood watching us through his dull brown eyes, I took a step towards him and he turned his head to me. For a moment the room was still, and then something completely ordinary happened: he blinked. It was such a human thing to do, for a moment I was almost surprised. As of that moment, I stopped seeing Patient 19 as a hunched, hulking monstrosity, and started seeing him as a man. Patient 19, I had read his file: Alexander Harper, aged twenty-eight, divorced, father of two young girls.

A former teacher only guilty of of a minor tax charge. As I stared into the abomination's eyes I saw what we had done to these people—we had taken their humanity and turned them into these animals, in our vain pursuit for fame and glory. I choked back tears and left the room followed by Richards, why did that bastard have to drag me into this? At that point all I wanted, more than anything else, was to stop the project. But nothing mattered now, nothing could change what we had done to poor Alex.

February 11th 1983

We have failed, we have failed to create anything near what we had hoped for. Our funding has been cut and the project disbanded. All patients are to be terminated. We refused to abandon our work, and for a short while we thought they had listened to our protests. But Huntingley had contacted his superiors, and within the hour military trucks were arriving outside. They didn't even attempt to negotiate with us, they just shot on sight. I heard the stutter of a submachine gun and ran around the corner in time to see Korosz's white labcoat peppered with bullets as she slumped against a wall and fell to the ground. Richards came hurtling around the corner, his breath ragged and his shirt blackened.

"Andrew-" he choked out but before he could say anything else, his chest erupted in a fountain of gore as a submachine gunner opened fire. I did not hesitate, I just turned and I ran.

Please don't judge me, I was so scared, scared that they'd get me too. I ran from the slaughter, the screams of my dying friends. And the blood. The unbearable blood. A left turn, a right turn and another left to reach the emergency exit. A pane of reinforced glass shattered behind me in a volley of machine gun fire, sending broken shards scattering across the floor. It was a desperate undignified scramble for survival, but through sheer dumb luck I had evaded them—I burst out of the emergency exit and ran into the darkness. I ran and ran and ran until my legs gave way and I fell to the ground in a heap on the soft white snow. My head was spinning, I had just watched the murder of one of my closest friends, the killings of all my co-workers and the destruction of all my research, but all I could see was Alex's face in the darkness of the winter night. Because of me. Oh god, what have I done?


In hindsight, it all fits into place. The Military didn't care for science, it didn't care for enhancing our short little lives. It didn't even want to create a breed of superior soldier as might be suspected. It wanted meat. A cheap, plentiful supply of meat that could be quickly and cheaply grown. Alexander was not a patient, he was fucking livestock. Fears over BSE (Mad Cow Disease to the common man) contaminating military stocks have prompted investigations into finding a new source of protein for our squaddies.

They claim the ends justify the means, sound familiar? Maybe once I would have agreed, but now those words taste bitter in my mouth. But in truth, none of this matters anymore, soon the final survivor of the Raleigh Base fire will die, and I will have the mercy of being forgotten. I don't want to be remembered for what I did to those poor wretches. I can't bear the guilt anymore, the only way out is to end it all. To whoever finds this diary, bring it to the public's attention—I want people to know the truth about what we did. I want people to know what depraved things we did to those poor souls, so that no one will ever follow me down the same dark path.

I leave you with a proverb, written by those much wiser than I: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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