Jacob sighed from his workstation. He had sent the others home hours ago, leaving himself to take watch over their charges. What remained of them, at any rate. Eighteen of the twenty “resurrection” tanks were empty now. The initial trials had been promising, but the entirety of Project Orpheus had been a dismal failure to date.
The reviving of long dead corpses into fully functional human beings was a concept that drew a lot of heat from both the religious and the political, and more often than not they were one and the same. But after Professor McNulty's demonstration with dogs, the academic and corporate world banded together with funding enough for this lab and all of its equipment. When that failed to be enough, the military took an interest. Soldiers that could be brought back from the dead? Renewable troops!
But Jacob's team had suffered setbacks time and time again, not the least of which was Professor McNulty's stroke. He had been fond of his boss, a straight-backed, no nonsense woman of 60 who seemed to know more than God. Only two years into a six year commitment and she died. Jacob was her lead assistant and so the logical choice to take over. The academic society had not been happy about that; he was only 30 and had no real reputation behind him. But the military had insisted. Then the military had discovered that their dream of never having to pay out early on pensions and death benefits would not be as cost effective as they had hoped; Jacob wondered why they ever thought so to begin with. The companies who were providing corporate backing had been strong in their continued support... until the first test subjects were “decanted.”
Things went downhill even faster from there.
Now there were only two, and it was only thanks to fast talking on Jacob's part and an additional grant from an anonymous donor that kept any hope alive.
He was tired. He had no idea what he and the team would do after all of this was over. If neither of the subjects were viable, then all of his work would have been for nothing and his career would be in ashes. The idea of trying to survive without steady academic or lab work, that sent shivers down his spine. He tried to dismiss the thought as he brushed a stray lock of blonde hair from his eyes. I really need a haircut soon, he thought.
One of the lights on the console began to flicker, a red light that caught his eye. Frowning, he leaned his thin frame over to check the readings. His gaunt face was reflected in the screen's soft glow, his spectacles small circles of light in the image.
“Oh, no,” he moaned, “Not now! It's too early!”
He flung himself from the workstation and bounded down the stairs into the lab proper. Gesturing wildly at Tank #19, he yelled. “Not now! There's no one else here! You're not supposed to pop for another couple of hours!”
Hurrying to the tank controls, he began to increase the stimulators. Tiny electrical pulses were sent into the tank, too small to be felt by the flesh but just enough to jump start neuro-processes that had not yet been initiated. Frantically, he balanced the flows of power, trying to stabilize the subject.
“Couldn't you have been late instead?” he grumbled. “I thought women from your era were supposed to take forever to get ready.”
Having done what he could, he realized there was no choice. If Subject 19 was viable and conscious, leaving her trapped in a tank for several more hours would be traumatizing, threatening any chance of success on all points. Jacob sighed in resignation and activated the flush mechanism. The restorative bio-agents were drained efficiently. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he released the locking mechanism, afraid of what might lay inside that tank. Some of the prior releases had been less than pleasing to see; a couple of them still haunted his nightmares.
As the lid lifted and the pale red liquid drained, he lifted his eyebrows in surprise. She's fully formed! Thank god for that.