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Fleischer's meal was drugged.  He hadn't even taken the first bite of his stew, but, he could tell by the faint, bitter smell that it was drugged.  It had been the first time he'd caught wind of that bitter scent since he had been moved to the pool three days before, and this time it was not Nurse Hayes, but Doctor Davis that sat across the table from him, flanked by two guards.

Beschützer, displaced by a meal, and the two men on the chairs, was resting on the desk across the room.  Fleischer had moved it there the moment he had heard Davis over the intercom – he didn't want the man near it.

"Doctor Fleischer," Isaac started, "you haven't even picked up your spoon."  The man sounded concerned and, given his posture, his expression, and his scent, it was at least a half-truth.

"I'm not hungry," Fleischer quickly replied.  Or, at least, he wasn't hungry for sedatives and a trip to the operating room; he was still haunted  by the visions from a few days back.  He didn't need any fresh ones.  Just having heard Isaac over the intercom had been enough to make his tentacles go yellow, and now, 'sitting' across from the man, those bright blue rings had revealed themselves, as well.  The sound of Davis clicking his pen to make a note on his patient file was enough to draw a low, quiet growl from Fleischer.

Davis looked up briefly when he heard the sound, and his guards both placed their hands on the holsters of their tranquilizer pistols.  The older doctor, however, went right back to writing what was apparently only a short note.

"Doctor Fleischer," he started once more, looking away from his clipboard and back to his patient.  "It is imperative that we conduct an exam in order for us to repair you."

'Repair.'  Not 'mend', or 'heal', or 'treat'…. but, 'repair', as though he was nothing more than a toy for Davis to play with.  Fleischer gave another, louder growl at that.  It was an unconscious action, but one he did not consciously try to stop or soften.

One of the guards drew his pistol, and Davis quickly, quietly, ordered him to put it away.  "Doctor Fleischer," he continued, "these examinations are absolutely necessary, and it is for your benefit that we provide sedation.  I don't want things to be unnecessarily unpleasant for you," he added, offering a small smile.

The smile was 'off', as it always was – just like the words were 'off', and Davis, as a whole, was 'off'.  Something dark and primal quickly welled up in Fleischer and, before he could stop himself, he had all but lunged across the table to grab Davis by the arms, knocking the bowl of stew onto the tiled floor in the process.  At the same time, a few of his tentacles whipped forward under the table to grab hold of the older man's legs.

The guards didn't give their captive the chance to do any real harm, though.  Two darts were fired, and both of them pierced into the man's chest.

Fleischer felt the effects almost immediately – two sharp stings followed by a difficulty in keeping any kind of grip on Davis.  It wasn't long before he released the man entirely, and had slumped back into his chair.  The room was beginning to warp and blur, and he could only just make sense of a voice.

"We need to get him out of here, quickly," Davis stated – was it Davis?  "Two darts might be too much."

Everything after that faded into a low, intermittent buzz – voices that could be heard, but not understood, and a pleasant, slowly pulsating hum.  The sound was broken only briefly by a quiet clank, and Fleischer rather suddenly realized that he was being moved, and placed on… on something.  The lights passed overhead, once more, only to eventually be blotted out by a single, much brighter one overhead.

There were more voices, then – more buzzing.  A few light touches were followed by intermittent, faded beeping sounds.  There was a distant sort of pain – a pinch – before everything went warm, and calm, and black.

***

Doctor Davis had tripled his guard since the attack.  Six armed guards flanked the old doctor as he took a seat across the table from Fleischer.  Usually, the sound of Chopin would have been playing in the background, but the record player had been confiscated as punishment for attacking Davis a second time.  He had nearly broken the man in half.

"Doctor Fleischer," Isaac started, placing his ever-present clipboard on the table.  "It seems that we are making headway on getting you fixed up."  The man smiled – that same, proud smile he nearly always gave his 'patient'.  "As I'm sure you can imagine, your Respawn code is very complex, but, we're narrowing down the problem data that caused…" he trailed off, gesturing lightly to Fleischer, "this."

Fleischer didn't detect any inherent disgust in Isaac's tone.  It was clear, however, that the man saw him as a scientific curiosity – as something that had gone fascinatingly wrong.  "Why are you doing this?" he questioned, barely able to suppress a low growl.  It had slowly become more and more difficult to be polite – it took increasingly more concentration.

Doctor Davis chuckled.  The question clearly amused him.  "Doctor Fleischer, we went over this weeks ago," he said.  "We're improving you – we are making a stronger, faster, more able human being.  And, what better place to start than someone who was already strong, fast, and able?"

Davis's patient barely heard the 'compliment.'  His attention was on the cattle prods that some of the guards carried on their belts.  Apparently their punitive measures  were branching out.  Fleischer's sensitivity to drugs had nearly put him through one Respawn cycle, already.  Granted, he had apparently  been in the operating room – from what he remembered, anyway… from what he wished he could forget.

"Turn me back!"  The words, accompanied by a rattling growl, spilled unbidden from Fleischer's lips.  The way the guards tensed up and reached for their prods wasn't lost on him, and he remained in his seat – for the moment, at least.

"We're working on it, Doctor Fleischer," Isaac said, far too casually.

"Nein!" Fleischer snapped in return.  "Turn me back to the way I was!," he demanded.  "The way I was before you dragged me here from Well!"

Even Davis tensed up a little at Fleischer's reaction – though he seemed relieved that the man hadn't lunged across the table, again.  "That would be even more difficult than what we are already trying to accomplish, Doctor Fleischer," he stated, matter-of-factly, frowning slightly when he received another growl in return.  "Now," he started, again, "there are a few other League scientists that have expressed a great deal of interest in you regarding separate projects.  Interest in you as you are now, that is."

Fleischer could see where this was going, and he didn't like it in the slightest.  His hearts, all three of them, were hammering in his chest, and every last muscle in his body felt painfully tense.

"I hope you will behave yourself," Davis started, again, "when they come in to see you.  Some of them may want to take photographs, or do a brief examination.  Any attempts to kill, attack, or otherwise hinder them will be fruitless, as they are all in the Respawn system.  You will also be punished.  Do you understand?"

The younger doctor gave a quiet, defeated nod at that.  He wondered if Nurse Hayes' absence over the past week was some sort of punishment, too.  The nurse was the only living source of comfort he had come across in his prison.

"Good," Isaac stated, giving a much more curt nod in reply.  "I will be supervising them, of course.  Most of them I trust well enough, but I would rather not chance any of them getting too… enthusiastic.  We will return shortly," he added, before grabbing his cane and standing up.

Fleischer was relieved when Isaac and his 'protection' had left.  It gave him some illusion of privacy.  It meant he could make his way over to the desk (and, 'walking' was still a very awkward affair, at best), and to Beschützer.  He didn't care if there were cameras watching, and, he didn't care if his tentacles were starting to get uncomfortably dry, he simply picked the stuffed bear up and held it tightly to his chest.  It didn't quite succeed in keeping tears from welling in his eyes, though, and it wasn't long before he had broken into sobs.

It was only several minutes later, after the intercom had crackled to life, again, that Fleischer reluctantly left Beschützer on the desk, and returned to his pool.  He slipped into the deep end so he could completely submerge himself, holding his breath for the few seconds it took to rehydrate his skin, and hide the tear streaks on his face.  When he surfaced, again, Isaac and his guards were walking in through the airlock – along with nearly a dozen other League scientists, including another Medic, in their white coats.

Most of Davis's guests were obviously curious, and only stepped closer when he insisted that they would be safe.  The Medic, on the other hand – a stern-looking woman with graying hair – remained behind, looking more displeased than anything else.

Fleischer wasn't quite sure what to make of her, but his attention was quickly drawn to Davis and his other colleagues.  Almost all of them had files with them, attached to clipboards, and the familiar clicking of pens as Davis answered their questions was almost enough to make the man's patient go mad.

The female Medic remained behind the others, taking a few notes of her own, and looking more and more disapproving with each passing minute.  She was quickly forgotten, however, when Fleischer was briefly blinded by the flash of a camera.  It startled him enough to elicit a faint growl that had some of the scientists backing away from the edge of the pool.

It was the first camera flash of many.  It was too much – too much light, too much talking, too many scents, too much noise.  The last straw was one of the men not so much asking to see one of Fleischer's tentacles as simply grabbing one that had curled over the ledge of the pool.  A warning from Davis was too late to keep his colleague from being yanked into the pool by three more of the boneless limbs.

The man fought back, of course, which meant that both he and Fleischer were quickly submerged.  The thrashing of arms and legs, and the muffled screams from the scientist only caused the tentacles around him to tighten.  Without even consciously thinking about it, Fleischer lunged forward through the water, and his sharp teeth sank easily into his victim's shoulder.

It was only after the man had gone limp that Fleischer realized something.  He was breathing – he was breathing the water as easily as though he was breathing air.  It felt cold, and wet, and heavy in his throat, and he realized that his gills were lazily opening and closing with each breath.

He wasn't given much time to think about it, though, before the scientist tangled up in his tentacles disappeared, picked up by the Respawn system.  Fleischer remained submerged – crawled to the furthest, deepest corner of his pool to put any amount of distance that he could between himself and the panicked scientists.

The one he killed had left his scents in the water – blood and panic.  They were scents that kept Fleischer tense, and hiding, and wishing that the alarmed, noisy people up above would just leave.

Eventually the voices were winnowed down to two – Isaac, and a woman – probably the female Medic.   A few moments later, everything went quiet.  It was only after the silence had fallen that Fleischer finally risked sticking his head out of the pool.

All of the people were gone.  Their scents remained – the scents of fear, and antiseptic, and, below it all, them.  There were other things missing, too.  The desk, along with all its books, was missing… and, "Beschützer…"  All that remained was the table and its two chairs.

Fleischer rushed, albeit very clumsily, to where the desk, and the bear, had been.  They were gone.  It was gone.  "Nein," he murmured to himself.  "Nein, nein, nein," it was gone – it was gone, it had been taken, and, to where?  The man started a little when he heard the crackle of the intercom coming to life.

"Your things will be returned," Isaac's voice began, "when you've proven that you can behave yourself.  I admit that Doctor Kent was more… 'handsy'… than I had approved, but your reaction was unacceptable."

It had all happened so quickly, though.  Fleischer hadn't even thought about it – hadn't had the time to think, his body had simply reacted.  "Please…" how pathetic , reduced to begging over a stuffed toy.  It was Beschützer, though, and Fleischer would have done nearly anything to get it back.

There was a long period of silence before Davis finally spoke, again.  "I believe we have your code repaired," he stated.  "Myself and the technicians are going to go over it a few more times.  In two days, we will put you through a Respawn cycle, and see if the code alterations work.  If you can behave that long, then you will get your things back."

Fleischer didn't say anything for several moments.  'If you can behave'.  He wasn't entirely sure of whether he would be able to be on his best behavior, especially if Davis decided to wheel his colleagues in, again.  The changes that the man had wrought had brought something animalistic, and primal, and reactive from the back Fleischer's mind – and, he couldn't always control it.

"All right," the Medic finally replied, rather meekly.  The best he could do, at the rate things were going, was try.

This story is actually a couple of years old. I was feeling very nostalgic and decided to pick it up and re-read it, and I wound up realizing that it had actually been very well-written. This was also my first real attempt at a horror/thriller piece. I'm posting on here, now, because along with being nostalgic, I would also appreciate any thoughts or critique on it. I wrote this not too long after I published Bedside Manner, and haven't really written up anything particularly longer than drabble, since.

Post-Modern Prometheus is a sort of alternative/hypothetical sequel to First Do No Harm shadowfire-x.deviantart.com/ar… and Comorbidity shadowfire-x.deviantart.com/ar…

If you want to delve into the back story, I would definitely recommend reading FDNH before Comorbidity. Both of those stories are relatively old, though, and I feel like I have improved my writing and characterization a great deal since then. As a result, if you do like Doctor Fleischer, or my writing in general (which, if you do, thank you very much - my main hope when I post my writing is that people will get some enjoyment out of it) then consider picking up my book, Bedside Manner, in paperback or on the Kindle www.amazon.com/Bedside-Manner-…

Fair warning, though, this being a horror/thriller piece, expect some disturbing content, though I am not really prone to using a great deal of blood and/or gore.

As a final note, the thumbnail image is in the Public Domain, and was downloaded from Pixabay pixabay.com/en/dna-biology-med…

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