Place : Wolf Den Military Base
Time : 2078-11-03
Age : 1643453-BDC Gooseman, Shane – 11 y.a.d.
"Keep still," the lab technician snapped and positioned the injection pistol above his upper arm.
Shane prepared for the shot and kept silent. At this hour all humans were grumbling. For whatever reason. The set of ten two-inch needles penetrated his biceps, slamming his arm as usual against the steel splint that ensured that the needles went deep enough as they fired the fifteen ccm's of adapted drug solution into his flesh. The heat and pain of the steel needles turned into a sudden dull coldness that soon changed again to pain as the stifling cold of the injection vanished. The two steel cuffs above and below the injection area snapped open.
"Get going," grumbled the tech. "Next."
He hurried on, involuntarily rubbing his arm against the heat under the skin at the injection site, and sped up. He wanted to be done showering before Ryker and his gang had gotten their shots.
The second physical training course was done. Shane forced the pink piece of geloid enabling factor down his dry throat and hurried for the exam, hoping desperately that Sawyer was the gentech responsible today.
The man had proven to be astonishingly careless with water in his lab, there were always pots, mugs, or glasses unwatched and it had never become obvious that the water was gone later... not even now, when they measured his consumption of liquid.
He had no illusions. He knew that without the gentech's carelessness, he would likely have failed to hide that he needed more water than the others did.
"So, why did Hannibal lose when he was already at the gates of Rome?" His head throbbed in the rhythm of his breathing. At least no one hissed at him in the special lectures in the evening that the commander held personally. "Gooseman?"
His name reached him as if through a thick fog bank. He searched his mind for the question, then for its answer... The commander had already narrowed his eyes at Goose's slowness. He'd– "Sun Tzu III-17-5." He swallowed inconspicuously against the bad taste in his throat. Useless.
The answer was there promptly in spite of the odd sensation that the back of his head was being chilled. "He will win–"
Walsh interrupted him. "Quote the complete paragraph, Gooseman."
He drew a deep breath. "Sun Tzu: _The Art of War_ Chapter III: Attack by Stratagem." The sudden acid in his throat made him wishing instantaneously he hadn't. "Seventeenth. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight." He kept his back very straight, his head upright. Don't let on... "(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces." The chill sensation in his head grew stronger; he felt almost dull. Get a grip on yourself, Shane! he growled to himself. "(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks." Don't show weakness. "(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared." If they notice... "(5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign." He refused to shake his head. "Carthage's leaders violated the fifth commandment. They interfered with their general's strategy." Goose's temples throbbed. He refused to close his eyes against the painfully bright classroom lights. "Hannibal obeyed."
The commander rewarded the answer with am approving nod. "Correct. Well done."
At the last moment, Shane kept his body from twitching in pain. Why did the man have to shout so loud?
"That's it for today. Report to your sleeping cubicles within the next ten minutes."
He jumped up. Two of the others slammed their elbows into his sides as they passed. Luckily, because it covered the unsteadiness of his first running steps. If only the corridor would stop rotating...
As expected, Walsh found Sawyer in the lab. "Max, did you do the second exams today?"
"Hm." The gentech nodded confirmingly.
"Did you notice anything about the boy?"
"Nothing except the usual need for water that we noticed after PTS – but the extra portion," Max grinned weakly, "he 'accidentally' gets during my exams solves that quite well. Why do you ask?"
"I watched him in class." Walsh made a helpless gesture. "Something isn't right with him."
"Do you have any idea, Joe? I checked his measurements thoroughly. He's fine." Max shrugged. "Maybe he's still reacting to shock from the PTS."
A shadow whizzed over Walsh's soul at the words as he turned slowly for the door. "Please keep an eye on him," he begged before it opened.
"As always, Joe."
The door closed on Sawyer's sentence, leaving Walsh alone with his footsteps echoing through the empty corridor and the dark thoughts in his mind.
He still had the feeling that something was definitely wrong with his son.
Whatever the measurements said.
He just knew it.
And there was nothing he could do.
He pressed his aching head against the cold metal of the wall and yearned for water... hell, for any kind of liquid to flush the acid from his throat. He felt as if the food from four hours ago was back on his tongue. The cool walls eased the peaks of the throbs behind his eyes a little. At least the sleeping cubicles were silent. And soothingly dark. He knew the pain would be calmed by morning.
He drew a deep, shivering breath. He couldn't go on like this. This was the third time this had happened. Sooner or later it would happen during a sim – or worse, while they were putting him onto the grille – and if one of Killbane's group noticed his condition it could turn out even worse than that.
But what was causing this? He couldn't remember experiencing this kind of pain with sickness afterward before... the grill. And they had drugged him after that. But he'd felt fine once the drug-induced dizziness was gone. For the two days afterwards, too, till he had returned to the daily routine.
He frowned, ground his teeth as the skin of his forehead suddenly felt too tight for his skull, and fought to ignore it.
The exercises were no harder than before. There'd been the first exam with the drug shots afterwards, first food – nothing that he hadn't experienced in single lab care, and he'd been well there – combat scenario, enabler, second exam– He stopped dead. That he hadn't gotten in the labs! The enabler. But he'd been taking the stuff for years, almost as long as he could remember, and it hadn't changed, so why...?
He moved his head slightly to the side, leaned his temple against a fresh, still cool spot of the wall.
But the drugs he got in the morning were different. There were more needles shot into his arm. And the stuff burned. He remembered the heat in the injection site. And back in the lab, Sawyer had told him, when he'd finally gotten to his feet, that he'd probably be disoriented for a while because of the new...
Could it be... that the different drugs caused this? That they interfered with the enabler? But... none of the others seemed to be affected.
He ground his teeth even harder: against the pain, the feeling of sickness, and the realization.
Another difference. A dangerous one. And the drugs were injected. He couldn't avoid them... His next breath, nearly a sob, startled him even more. Damn it, no! He wouldn't!
Think! If only his brain would stop demanding more space than there was in his head... Different level. Think less specifically. Reason is combination of new drugs and enabler. New drugs are injected. Enabler is swallowed...
The enabler was considered extremely important. They'd told him it would activate the special abilities already implanted in his DNA. And he had to develop those abilities soon, quickly and thoroughly, or...
But without it...
Without it, he had at least a chance to survive the next few weeks.
Time : 2078-11-08
"Anything new about the boy, Max?"
"Still restless, Joe?" Sawyer smiled. "Well, he's fine. I did the complete checkup on him again." Making a face: "I just hope Owen doesn't check how long I took for the exams. Shane wasn't scheduled for one."
"Well, I gave him an extra quarter liter. He seems to need at least two extra liters to feel well." Max frowned. "That leaves him with a daily need for four to five liters."
"That's more than a normal human being needs."
"Not really. Consider the physical exercises he has to go through during the day, and the climate here. It's acceptable. But we must pay attention. Dehydration is risky because there's no chance for him to work around it. Aside from that... well, I caught a last glimpse of sore muscles in the second exam after the combat scenario."
"It exceeds his strength?"
"Not really. His bio defenses coped well with it. By the time I recalibrated the sensors for an in-depth check, it was already gone. I think I saw it only because, atypically, I called him in first. But there are two facts that surprise me." Max shook his head slightly.
"Is it dangerous?"
"No, the reverse. His nucleotide sequences are more stable than last week, and the EEG showed an increase in brain activity. Normally, that kind of increase appears when an ST is becoming more aggressive, but he isn't. I think that's a very positive development, Joe."