Staff Sergeant Tabitha Nicole Lyght was never an ordinary individual, although she felt like she was. Nothing extraordinary ever happened to her; she just tried to live life day-by-day, to the best of her ability. While she always tried to be the best at everything that she did, she didn’t really try to stick out in a crowd. Everyone else that she surrounded herself with always felt that she was special.
She was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN along with her four brothers. Being the only girl and the middle child was somewhat challenging for her, especially seeing that she always wanted to do what her two older brothers did. Many of her childhood friends had older sisters to talk to; the only other female in the household was her mother, Olivia Lyght. Tabitha had no other choice but to try and follow in her brothers’ footsteps until the time she graduated high school. Being a black family living in the south, her parents tried to instill the values of a great education into their children; they were all expected to go to college. She had made decent grades in school but wasn’t ready to go to college like her older brothers done. Instead, she enlisted into the Army a mere three days after graduation.
She had been outspoken throughout her high school years and because of that, was leader material from day one of boot camp; her squad leader role continued into Advanced Individual Training, where she learned her supply clerk trade. After all of her required training, she was quickly promoted to Sergeant when she arrived at her Reserve unit and was immediately volunteered for Drill Sergeant School; soldiers who were listed in the top ten percent of their job class were automatic candidates when they reached the sergeant rank. After graduating from that school, Tabitha alternated three months as a drill sergeant and three months working at her unit.
She was barely 23 when she found herself a staff sergeant. She actually liked the military and had made the decision to make it into a career. She made sure that she exceeded any task that was given to her, which was leading up to her “retiring” as a drill sergeant and about to take on the job as a recruiter and warehouse supply instructor. In the meantime, she reported to her unit for weekend drill on the first weekend of the month. To keep herself busy, she took part-time work at a popular cab company in the city.
It was a different day for her however, as she patiently waited at the drive-thru of McDonald’s. It was the second weekend of the month but yet she was dressed in her Army combat uniform (or ACU) on a late Friday morning. Her unit’s commanding officer had called last night and told her of a very important and mandatory meeting. As she grabbed her breakfast and zoomed off, she wondered if she was up for yet another promotion. It didn’t made sense, she thought as she sped through a yellow light; only six months had passed since her father, Curtis Lyght did the honors of pinning her staff sergeant chevrons on her uniform: it was way too early to become a sergeant first class!
Tabitha arrived in the parking lot in record time, parking beside a tan Lexus GS. The tinted window slowly rolled down and she was looking into the dark brown eyes of her best friend, Sergeant Tony Williams. He turned his stereo system down, which, not to her surprise, was blasting the latest hip hop CD and shook his head at her. She climbed out of her black Hyundai Elantra and smirked at him.
“What?!” her southern accent rang out. The two had been best friends ever since the 7th grade and had become inseparable. It didn’t surprise anyone that the two decided to join the Army together, both going Reserves to stay closer to their families. What did surprise everyone was that the two never dated. Tony never understood why he never tried to be more than friends with the nearly six foot tall woman; she was beautiful even when she was going through her tomboy stage throughout the majority of her school years! She was a tanned brown; he often joked with her, saying that she was the color of a lion! Her almond-shaped, whiskey brown eyes would always narrow at his teasing but then dance with laughter.
She slid into the passenger side of his car and offered him a breakfast sandwich which he refused. He was used to seeing thin women, especially military women. But, Tabitha was a different kind of thin. Slim, he thought to himself; and most definitely toned. Army training had given her a more defined frame.
“It’s a miracle you’ve never gotten a ticket, the way you drive…”
“Shut up! I’m never late, right?”
“By the grace of God…” he winked at her. She laughed as she finished her sandwich. He sighed and looked at the time, “So, this meeting… you’re up for promotion again, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, right! I ain’t been staff for a year yet!”
“Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you are. They know a motivated soldier when they see one…”
“Hooah…” she joined him in the Army’s signature motivational chant. She blushed slightly as he laughed.
“I can’t help that I found something that I enjoy doing… and it’s something that I’m actually good at…”
“You’re good at a lot of other things, Tabby…”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Cheerleading…” he added with a smirk. Tabitha snorted slightly and gave Tony a light shove, “The girl who always wore her brother’s jeans becomes captain of the cheerleading squad!” he continued. She looked out at the building that housed their unit, sipping her drink.
“I wasn’t captain and you know that…”
“Should’ve been; you were hot…” he half-heartedly teased. It was the truth, he admitted to himself: Tabitha Lyght, with her long legs, semi curvy frame and gorgeous smile was one of the most attractive cheerleaders on the squad.
“’Were’?” she gave him a look. Tony shrugged slightly.
“Well, you know what happens when you get older; looks are the first thing to go…” he said with the straightest of faces. Her eyes widened as he burst into laughter.
A man walked towards the Lexus and the two immediately took notice. Both stopped what they were doing, hopped out of the car and saluted the older man. He returned the salute with a slight smile.
“Sgt. Williams, Sgt. Lyght; formation in five minutes.”
“Thank you, sir.” Tony added.
“Sir… do you know what the meeting’s all about?” Tabitha tried. Their commanding officer, Captain Warren Reed smiled at the staff sergeant.
“Are we a bit anxious, Lyght?”
“… curious is more like it, sir…”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it at the moment. Don’t worry; you’re not getting promoted again… yet! See you in formation soldiers.” the captain said and strolled off. Tony waited until the officer was out of sight and earshot before he turned his attention towards Tabitha.
“What was that all about? You got something going on with the captain? That’s fraternization, soldier!” he told her. She gave him another shocked look and pushed him fully, almost knocking the latte colored man completely off his feet.
“Are you fucking crazy?!
“Like a fox! Aw, come on; you know I was kidding! Let’s get this over with…” he suggested as the two made their way towards the front of the building.
Their unit was a small but an important one. The soldiers were mainly responsible for the numerous auto parts for the military vehicles that were transported through most of the states; if a unit in California did not have the part, the soldiers of Quartermaster 332 had it in their stock. Tabitha took pride in that, looking around the armory. She had grown to enjoy the smells of the auto parts mixed with the various motor oils that lingered in the area.
After formation, the unit was ordered inside and gathered into the room they usually used for any type of meeting. Tony looked at his best friend as she slightly stared at the unfamiliar machine towards the back of the room. The large table and chairs had been cleared to make room for the contraption: a rectangular machine sitting right next to a chair that would usually be seen in a dentist’s office.
“You okay, sergeant?” he slightly smirked at her. She had slightly stiffened as she figured out that part of the machine’s purpose was to administer an IV, something that he knew she was seriously afraid of. Tabitha shot him a look but put her attention back on the machine.
“I wonder what the hell that thing is…” she half mumbled. Although he found it funny about her fear of needles, he had wondered the same; in the chair were indeed what looked like needles and small plastic tubes. Tony was about to voice his opinion until Captain Reed strolled in along with an unfamiliar general and two medical personnel. The small group immediately snapped to attention, regardless of the new face; a general was a general and was treated with the same respect.
She had gotten a quick glance of him and noticed that he looked young for a general despite his salt and pepper buzz cut. His features were sharp and rigid as if his face had been sculpted. The general’s skin was tanned to near perfection, giving him a rather commanding demeanor as he towered over everyone in the room. Tabitha always thought that their captain was a handsome man even as years of military training had become sketched deep into his face; however, the general’s looks were far more impressive.
“At ease, soldiers…” Captain Reed ordered and the soldiers followed the command diligently, “This is General Gary First. He is the leading commander for the department of chemical warfare located out of D.C. Sir…” he gave the floor to the general. He stood in front of the squad, nearly blocking their view of the two medics tending to the contraption behind him.
“Soldiers, I will make this speech short and simple. I have been assigned a top-secret project that will turn any soldier into a pure weapon…” his words rang out. She knew that, even without looking around that everyone else in the room had the same weird look that she had accidentally given out, “It has already undergone experiments and the first set of soldiers will be deployed shortly to test out the project.” he finished despite the looks.
“Question, sir!” someone bellowed. Tony stifled a laugh as everyone turned to the voice. Private Reyes, Tabitha wanted to roll her eyes. He was fresh out of training and she was assigned to take him underneath her wings. He was somewhat of a troublemaker, always making remarks or speaking out of terms, regardless of whom it was directed to.
The general’s hazel eyes pierced through the private’s own dark brown ones; it was the first time Tabitha had seen him slightly cringe at anyone staring him down.
“Reyes, is it? Go on, private…”
“Uh… were we hand-picked for this project, sir? We already have a few soldiers deployed from the unit, sir.” he pointed out. Tabitha slightly raised her eyebrows at him; whatever the general had done to make him respectful she wanted to learn! General First only nodded.
“I was not made aware of that situation, private. Regardless, I was told that this is the best damn transportation unit in the Mid-South…”
“Hooah!!” all of the soldiers, including Tabitha, couldn’t resist. The general gleamed at their show of motivation.
“… and only the best will be picked for this project. Private, who is your squad leader?”
“Sgt. Lyght, sir!” of course he would be quick to give out that information, Tabitha thought.
“Sgt. Lyght, front and center!”
“Sir, yes sir!” her heart was pounding but she diligently stood in front of the general and saluted him. He returned the salute and she stood perfectly at attention.
“Excellent procedure, sergeant; gaddamn excellent! At ease.” she was glad for the order, “Lyght, huh?”
“Well, now; you couldn’t write this up if you wanted to! Your name is the perfect fit for this project! Tell me, sergeant; how far you want to go to serve your country?” he asked the woman. Not that far, she immediately thought to herself. When she had made the decision to join the military, it had never crossed her mind that she would have to fight in a war or even go overseas. Even as the war in Iraq was going on throughout her early years in the Army, she had been lucky so far not being deployed anywhere.
“To the very end, sir!” she lied.
“Boy… if I wasn’t married, I’d snatch you up!” the general replied. His response made the other soldiers snicker, including Tony, and Tabitha turn a shade of red. General First took notice, laughed and gave her a hard slap on her shoulder, “A joke, sergeant; no need to turn colors on me! Are you ready to be the first volunteer for this project?” he asked. What, I have a choice, she thought jokingly. She kept a straight face.
“Sir; yes sir!”
“Out-fucking-standing! Now, I won’t leave you soldiers in the dark. The project is named ‘Operation Recharge’. They don’t pay me to be a scientist so I will be the first to tell you that I have the slightest clue as far as the technicalities. All I know is that Sgt. Lyght will be strapped down to this chair and her vitals recorded at all times. These two medics will inject a secret serum through her IV and then she will be given a small jolt…” Tabitha couldn’t hide her surprised look at his words. A jolt; no one said anything about getting shocked, “That jolt will activate the serum and Sgt. Lyght will be twice as strong and twice as fast as any weapon made!” the general continued.
“… Damn!” Tony couldn’t help but to express however Tabitha was still stuck on the idea of being shocked. What type of mess did she get herself volunteered into?
“The only downside of the procedure is that she would only have the effects for thirty minutes. Sergeant… are you ready to do your country a favor?”
“Locked, cocked and ready to rock, sir!!”
“Take a good look at this sergeant, soldiers; she is about to make history. Give the medics a few minutes to set up and we’ll get you… ‘recharged’, soldier…” he added with a slight wink and left the room with the unit’s captain. She finally let out a sigh and turned to the others who had gathered around her. Tabitha eyed Reyes as she approached him. He cracked a smile at her.
“I’m gonna kill you, Reyes!”
“What did I do?!”
“Why am I even surprised that you’d open your big mouth and start asking questions and shit? When this is over with, I’m assigning you to detail for the rest of your career!” she threatened. Tony threw an arm around her shoulder and laughed.
“She’s only kidding! Besides; how was you supposed to know that she would get volunteered?” he asked. Reyes shrugged but kept the smile on his face.
“I guess the sergeant wanted me to lie to the general…”
“Hmph… never stopped you in the past…” Tabitha mumbled. Tony pulled her away from the rest of the unit and towards the medics.
“I won’t lie; I’m kinda jealous…” he noted. She gave him a look.
“Well, then you go ahead and volunteer!” she said. Her worried voice grabbed the attention of the female medic who was helping her male counterpart set up the machine. She looked at the two with timid, green eyes but smiled.
“There’s nothing to be nervous about, really, Sgt. Lyght. The procedure is quite simple and quick.”
“What about the… jolt thing?”
“Oh; it’s only a small shock. You’ll barely feel it!” she kept her smile.
“I don’t think it’s the shock that’s really on her mind…” Tony volunteered. The medic switched glances from Tabitha to Tony and then back to Tabitha and nodded.
“You’re afraid of needles?” she asked lowly. Tabitha slightly nodded. As General First and Captain Reed made their way back into the room, the medic smiled wider and helped her into the chair. She took her ACU blouse off, exposing her brown undershirt. The medic placed electrodes underneath her shirt around her heart and immediately strapped her to the chair. Well, so much for backing down, Tabitha thought, “Don’t worry; I’ll hold your hand…” she whispered and winked; the sergeant was the only female in the unit and the medic had a feeling that she had a reputation to hold on to.
General First smiled widely as he saw that the motivated woman was ready to undergo the procedure. He turned to the other soldiers in the room.
“After Sgt. Lyght undergoes the procedure, she will be assisted to another room and be held under twenty-four hour observation. She will experience the effects that we talked about within seconds of the jolt. Her vitals will be checked throughout the entire day; Sgt. Lyght is in no way going into a dangerous situation. Ready?” he looked at the two medics. The male checked the machine as the green-eyed medic looked on. When he nodded at her, she gave the general a thumb’s up. She immediately squeezed Tabitha’s hand as the male inserted the IV in her arm. Tabitha winced only a bit, being careful not to show her weakness in front of the unit but return the squeeze fiercely.
“The IV has been inserted and the serum will now be administered.” the male medic announced. He held up a small syringe with a pink-tinted liquid inside. He injected the serum inside the injection port of the IV tube. The green-eyed medic watched the monitor on the machine for any abnormalities in Tabitha’s heart rate. Something else caught her eye as well as the male medic’s and the two started to fiddle with the contraption.
“Everything okay over there…?” Tabitha silently asked. The woman put her attention back to her and gave her another smile.
“A minor misreading; something that can be fixed. It was probably slightly jammed during transport.” she told Tabitha but looked back at the machine. She slightly sighed and nodded to her counterpart, “Okay; readings are normal, now. Vitals are normal and steady.”
“Sgt. Lyght, we will now give you two doses of small electrical shocks. This is needed to activate the serum. They’ll feel like small pinches, nothing more.” the male medic assured her. She nodded as two more electrodes were put on her forearm. With a press of a button, Tabitha had to admit that they were right; she felt nothing but a slight pinch.
However, something started happening. The machine was supposed to only give out two jolts, Tabitha knew for sure. She frowned slightly as she continued to feel the pinching sensation on her forearm.
“Umm…” she tried. Grinding and whirring sounds from the machine caught everyone else’s attention. Smoke immediately appeared and before the medics could either remove the electrodes from her arm or shut down the machine, it released a huge voltage that surged throughout Tabitha’s body, making her seize in the chair.
“Tabby!!” Tony tried to get to his best friend but was held back by the others who were watching in fear.
“Back down, sergeant; you’ll get electrocuted!!” someone shouted at him.
“Get the soldiers out of here; NOW!” the general barked at whoever was listening. Captain Reed led his unit out of the room as the medics attempted to get the machine to stop its assault on the staff sergeant. By the time the machine finally broke down, the room was filled with smoke and the agonizing smell of burnt flesh.
“Sir, the sergeant!”
“Don’t touch her!!” he ordered the woman. He went over to Tabitha, himself, quickly studying her limp body. He slowly and carefully touched her; when he was not electrocuted, he let out a small sigh.
“Sir… we have to give her…”
“Hurry up and dispose of the body.” he made up his mind calmly. The woman looked at him in complete horror.
“General! We can attempt to save her…”
“Did you not hear me? If she gets revived, this experiment is ruined. Check her vitals and if there aren’t any… dump the body…” he said sternly and turned to leave. The medics looked at each other. The woman huffed as the man undid Tabitha’s straps and started to check for a pulse. He looked at her and shrugged.
“I… I’m sorry, Cheryl; I need this job…”
Taken from “The Rock”