A voice echoed from the intercom set flush in the ceiling. "Okay, boys. This is the last of the food flavoring trials. Swallow the pills you've been given, then fill out one of the forms with what you tasted."
One of the men immediately popped the capsule into his mouth and dry-swallowed it before grabbing a clipboard. The other eleven men looked nervously at each other, then one said, "Uh, shouldn't we let them dissolve in our mouths or something before swallowing them?"
There was a pause, then the intercom crackled again. "No, these are supposed to be activated by your stomach acid. Just swallow the things and fill out the forms, okay?"
The remaining men hesitated, but followed instructions. As the last pill was swallowed, the first man jerked forward, clutching his stomach.
An anonymous assistant research, safely ensconced 10 kilometers away, rested her hand near the intercom button. "Lord, I can't keep track sometimes. What was this testing, again?"
Her coworker, not looking at her, typed notes into his workstation and replied, "Whether adding 447-2 to various poisons neutralizes them. Looks like it made them more effective instead."
She sighed and entered a command into the computer. "Well, that was predictable. Turning on the camera filters now."
A sourceless green glow suffused the room, faint at first but building to a blinding verdant glare. As it passed a certain threshold, the cameras in the room shut off. When they turned on again a few moments later, the now-fading light was still bright enough to make the observers blink as their eyes adjusted. Littered around the room were the now-lifeless bodies of a dozen former inmates.
The woman turned from the monitor to her companion and said, "Well, that's another test done and logged. I really don't know why they have us keep doing this. It's the same thing every time."
He shrugged as he typed up the preliminary report. "I dunno. So long as I keep getting paid and I don't get transferred to one of the more dangerous things, I'm cool with logging pointless experiments."
He leaned forward and nodded at the monitor. "Look, right on time. Get ready to turn on the suppressant foam."
One of the corpses started to smolder, faint wisps of smoke drifting from its exposed skin. One by one, each of the bodies followed suit, the skin blackening and collapsing to reveal greenish-black embers that flickered with small emerald flames. A series of clicks sounded as nozzles extended from the ceiling.
The woman flipped a series of switches, then frowned as a pair of amber lights appeared amongst the field of green. "Aw crap, nozzles 4 through 7 are clogged. I bet the cleanup crew last week didn't hose 'em out fully. Is there any way we can get a team in there early to clean 'em out?"
Her coworker shook his head. "I don't think so. The doors are sealed until all levels inside are back to within normal limits. Those nozzles are over in the northwest corner, right?" He glanced from monitor to monitor. "I think all the corpses should be covered by the others. Just log it and let the cleanup crew get their asses in a sling. I'll tell 'em to make sure to clean those out good."
He started typing up an email as she entered a brief addendum into the experiment log. Neither of them paid any more attention to the monitors while they worked.
Eleven bodies were completely covered in a thick layer of purple foam. The twelfth was almost completely covered. An outstretched arm, flung to the side as the body had fallen, had resulted in a much thinner layer of foam that thinned as it extended up the limb. The very tip of the middle finger remained untouched. The flame on its fingernail grew stronger.
Their respective typing done, the two assistant researchers leaned back in their chairs and looked back to the monitors, bored by the unchanging nature of their duties. Suddenly, the woman leaned forward to peer at one.
"Wait. The D-class over by the wall… Shit! I think he's still clear! Look at his hand!"
The man stared at the strengthening flame on the monitor, then popped open a clear plastic cover on his console and slapped a large red button. Klaxons immediately started sounding.
"Containment breach in progress. Report to your assigned stations. This is not a drill. Containment breach in progress. Report to your…"
The woman scrambled for the door to the hallway as growing flames flickered on the monitors. She didn't notice the back of her neck start painlessly smoldering where the verdant light from the monitors touched it. The man was rooted to his chair as his eyes reflected green.
A lone figure stood in a peaceful field. A great sea of green and growing grass stretched in front of him, peaceful wave patterns flowing across their surface as the wind blew and bent the stalks. He turned and found a great forest behind him; the trunks of the trees dark and black, but the leaves fresh and vibrantly verdant. The sky looked overcast, but light suffused everything and he could clearly see everything. Every vein in every leaf, every crack of bark, even individual blades of grass on the horizon.
Another person suddenly appeared, laying a few meters away along the treeline, then another standing in the grasses, and another perched on a branch above. All looked as confused as he felt.
"Where am I?" he whispered as he rubbed his eyes with his hands, unbelieving what he was seeing. A fingernail on his left hand shone like sunlight through water.
A loving voice surrounded him, echoing from above, below and all around him, composed of the rustles of wind and leaves and the grinding of stones. Despite its odd timbres of simultaneous power and gentleness, it resonated in him with a feeling of deep affection and tranquility.