Shared Void, part II: Corporal

I woke up with light in my eyes. I raised a hand to block the ceiling lights, allowing my eyes to adjust to my surroundings. What happened? I was in a hospital bed, flanked by medical equipment in a clean, tiled room. A small floral painting was facing me on the opposite wall. I could feel electrodes attached to my forehead and the nape of my neck, and the medicine bag attached to my left arm with a needle. I was dressed in a patient gown, and I could only assume that the middle aged man standing next to the bed in the white lab coat was my doctor. The badge on his arm showed the constellations of the three colonies and the bars of his rank within the med corp.

“It means–oh!” The doctor was taken aback when he noticed I was awake. He blinked several times before acknowledging me. “I’m sorry, I, uh, didn’t expect you to wake up so soon.”

“What does what mean, sir?” I rasped through a throat that was gradually losing its soreness. In fact, my entire body felt like I had just done nearly every drill in the book at once, but the pain and soreness was fading rather quickly.

“What? Oh, nothing. Just thinking out loud. Um, my name is Doctor Isaac Loftus. I’m here to help you recover from the ordeal.” He pulled out a light and started looking through my eyes to try to bore into my brain, I’m certain.

“Name? Rank?”

“Deandra Carter. Corporal.”

“Yes, that matches out records. What’s the last thing you recall?” He asked as he forced my left eyelid up before blinding me.

“I was stationed at Fort Jude. We were exercising out in the field. Engineers were working on the fighters, preparing them for the next op. Then the sirens started to blare. I looked South and saw a cloud of the damned buzzards entering atmo. They fired on us almost instantly. There was an explosion and–” I could feel my eyes grow wide with my panic and I pulled the bed sheet off of my body. At the sight of my left leg, I gave a sigh of relief. “I must have been dreaming that last part. I thought I lost my leg.” I pulled the bed sheets back over myself.

“You were lucky then.” The doctor readjusted his glasses. “It was a massacre. But we got to you in time and you are healing rather well. We’ll have you back out in the field in no time. You need to rest now.” There was a knock at the door. He turned to answer it, looking back to me to say, “You are dismissed, son.”

“Son?” I said with a yawn. I was suddenly feeling extremely tired, like it was my first day at basic. “Do these tits say ‘son’ to you?” It took everything I had to keep my eyes open as the doctor opened the door to answer it. And then came the darkness.

* * *

“Wake up.”

The voice of my superior officer rang in my ears, softly, as if very distant. I struggled to open my eyes, expecting to see either the base or the hospital room. I’m not sure which one I wanted more.

I stood face to face with a metallic blue security drone, humanoid design and built to withstand oncoming fire from small arms. I was breathing heavily, as if out of breath. My right arm was elbow deep into its higher chassis, and I could feel that I was holding a warm, hard chunk of metal. The lights flickered out of its optic sensors. I kicked it away, still grasping firmly onto whatever I was holding. As it clamored to the ground, I saw that I was holding its central power unit, my fingers dug into its metallic side. I threw it aside and tried to regain my bearings.

I was in a large room made of concrete, void of any furnishings. I had been changed into a black, skin tight spandex suit, revealing too much for comfort. Several of the blue security drones lay torn apart across most of the room. One lay against the wall under a drone sized crater in the cement, cracks reaching out across the wall from the point of impact. Three more machines still stood upright at just under 2 meters, slowly approaching.

I looked around in a panic, trying to formulate a plan. It was then that I noticed a viewing window in the wall above and behind me. Two men were watching me with jaws agape, clip boards in hand. The third man present was Doctor Loftus, yelling at them with the whole of his body and pointing at me about to be overrun with security drones. What was going on?

I didn’t notice any doors, any exit whatsoever. And the drones were slowly approaching. I had to think this through. I took notice of the mess around me once more. Something tore those other drones apart, and I had awoken with a robot “heart” in my hand. Did I do that? Did I fight those drones with my bard hands? There was no other option but to find out.

The closest drone was at my left. I quickly shot toward it, faster than I normally could. I raised my right fist to attack. The combat drone lifted its arms to block the blow, but it didn’t expect the maneuver to be a feint. I slid to my knees at the last second and landed the blow below the drone’s block. The robot’s torso caved in with the punch, and it slide back nearly a full meter. The hell?

I quickly realized that I still had my back turned on the other two drones. I swung a fist as I spun to the right and reached out. And out. And out! I swear on my mother’s grave that my arm increased in length by at least a tenth of a meter, slamming the first of the two drones across its head. The impact sent it flying to the side into its companion, both slamming against the wall just beneath the observation window.

Increased strength? Stretching? What did they do to me? As I stood there, shocked at this new development, a robotic hand grabbed my shoulder. With years of combat training behind me, I instinctively grabbed the hand and the accompanying arm, and threw the first drone over my body onto the floor in front of me. With fury enveloping my senses, I slammed a foot onto the robot’s head, crushing it, and pulled on the arm I still firmly held.

Metal strained, wires snapped, and electricity fizzled from exposed connections as I tore the arm loose from the drone’s body. The next thing I knew, I was wailing on the remaining two drones with the severed arm of their fallen compatriot. Oil sprayed the wall beneath the observation window.

“–re dismissed, son!”

A switch flipped in the back of my mind. The fury vanished, and a strange and sudden awareness of my current situation flooded me. I looked at the oil dripping from my white knuckled fists.

“You. Are. Dismissed. Son!” The doctor’s voice echoed from unseen speakers. I looked up into the room beyond the window and saw Loftus speaking through a microphone set into the control equipment.

“Doc! What the fuck is going on?”

* * *

“Genetically altered?”

The words sounded weird in my mouth. Doctor Loftus was leading me down a hall in the facility back to my hospital bed. He was doing his best to dumb down the science talk to normal person levels for me, describing the changes I was experiencing.

“Yes. Whatever new weapon they’ve cooked up for the raid on Fort Jude did well to destroy and kill, but it also fundamentally altered the genetic structure of any survivors. You are one of the lucky ones. Some of your fellow soldiers were not much more than ooze and bone when we got there.”

“And the black outs?”

“Quite troubling, those. You say you don’t remember leaving the bed?”

“No. The last thing I recall was you answering the door after the first time I woke up.” I rubbed my forehead. Nothing in my training could have possibly prepared me for the strangeness of the situation.

“Quite troubling indeed.” He motioned to his right, leading us down another hall. A pair of doctors halted at the sight of us, as if stunned to see me. I couldn’t blame them. If I knew of someone with the kinds of abilities I am apparently capable of, I’d be shocked to see that person too. “After the results of your blood and a tissue sample came back from the lab, we discovered that you were, how should I say, different. So we needed to put you to the test. These past few days have been quite interesting.”

“Days?” I had lost days!

“Yes. Days. The last few days we have been testing the limits of your new abilities. They are remarkable.” He paused in front of a door and typed a pass code into the keypad. With a hiss, the automatic door released its seal and slid to the side. Loftus motioned for me to enter and I complied, trying to absorb all the information.

I looked up and saw where I had been led. A dirty cell of iron bars in the back of the windowless room had shackles coming from the walls for the arms and neck. Interrogation tools and a neat stack of folders filled with files sat on a steel table to my left. Three bloody sheets covered three bodies on gurneys to my right. I was caught off guard long enough to earn the sharp pain in my neck from the hypodermic needle the doctor was using to inject me with a concoction.

I shot forward and grabbed my neck. I spun around to face the son-of-a-bitch, but the maneuver left me dizzy as the drugs pushed through my veins. I could feel the drowsiness start to take me.

“You–” The darkness crept around my vision and gravity became harder to fight. “You mother f–” I accidentally slammed into the steel table on the way down. Tools and files flew through the air and fell to the ground with me before I completely blacked out.

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