“Nathan, accept it. You’ll never be what I want as long as you are who you are.” Her sigh was almost sympathetic as she turned and walked into the rainy Detroit night. The Spring drizzle felt cold. Erica…
“Lieutenant Hauk!” The instructor’s sharp voice cut through Nathan’s memories.
“Yes sir!” Nathan instinctively replied. Why was I thinking of her now? It’s been five years.
“I asked you a question Lieutenant. Which evo-stim package should you take in preparation for a night mission?”
Nathan chided himself for not paying attention and brought his thoughts to the present. “The Feline-stim, sir!”
“And why the Feline-stim as opposed to the Owl-stim?” The instructor grilled, obviously pressing Nathan because of his inattentiveness. Nathan mentally cursed the pompous peacock responsible for educating the SABRE recruits about operational evo-stim usage. How much of a help could these things be anyway?
“Sir! The Owl-stim is designed for night reconnaissance specifically and not for general night ops.”
“Very good, Lieutenant. I’m glad you have at least reviewed the materials.” The instructor turned, addressing the group as a whole, “The Owl-stim allows for near-telescopic night-vision and increased cochlear efficiency whereas the Feline-stim grants the user ocular focal ranges at near-human norms but requires significantly less photonic input. Not to mention the whiskers…”
Nathan followed the lecture dutifully, but part of his mind was still pondering that night half a decade and almost a lifetime ago. As he jotted notes about this receptor being advantageous for that perception, he wondered where she was. If she thought of him. He shook his head to clear his mind of her and determinedly brought all of his attention to the instructor’s lecture. After all, he would be using these highly classified evo-stims in training soon.
“Remember, your body is going to be building new tissue. This takes energy, even with all of the nutrients packed into each stim.” Nathan warily accepted the Snake-stim from Instructor Haldek as he continued explaining the process to the recruits. “You’ll need to eat lots of protein at the mess tonight, gentlemen, and I would suggest hitting the bunk early. You’re going to need your rest.” At that last comment the burly old instructor chuckled to himself.
It was well known that your first major evo-stim is hard on both body and mind. This wasn’t some dopamine insta-stim lasting for only 10 blissful minutes. SABREs are expected to undergo massive phenotypic changes for weeks, even months at a time, in order to be able to counteract the growing Epistle threat. At least the changes weren’t permanent.
“Doc Holloway will personally clear all of you before tomorrow morning’s exercise, but I expect all of you to be appropriately kitted out and on time!” You could hear the steel in Haldek’s voice. “You are here to become a SABRE. Special Anti-Bioterrorist Rectification ELITES!” Haldek practically shouted the last word, bringing everyone’s attention to him. “This is the crucible gentlemen, and tomorrow we determine your mettle. Stim up!”
At the command all 20 recruits lifted their evo-stims to their inner arms and depressed the injection button. Nathan felt the sizable needle puncture his skin but the area was immediately numb from local anesthetic. It felt anticlimactic, really.
After dinner Jake Tully, who had already earned the nickname Genie for his breadth of genetic knowledge, walked with Nathan and asked him “so which evo-stim did you get?”
“Snake-stim.” Nathan replied disgustedly, unconsciously rubbing at the already healing puncture wound.
“Dude, that’s an awesome stim. You’ll be able to smell with your tongue! How cool is that?”
“Yeah, but it also means I’m going to have to figure out how to use my stingers.”
Genie nodded understandingly. The Snake-stim causes venom sacs to develop on the inside of the user’s wrist, with wasp stingers protruding as the delivery method. Unfortunately the biotech geniuses at Transgene hadn’t quite figured out how to get the stingers to release properly. Having whole skin sections ripped off with all five stingers embedded in a target is not uncommon.
“What about you?” Nathan asked.
“Canine-stim with a bat booster.”
“How’d you guess?” Genie grinned. He was already a lithe and quick soldier, ideal for scouting, and with the evo-stims he’d be able to smell and hear with superhuman ability.
“Does that mean you can do echolocation?” Nathan asked.
Genie snorted. “You should pay more attention to our lectures Nathan. Echolocation requires a brain that can interpret the soundwaves into a three-dimensional map.” He tapped his head. “This sucker isn’t equipped for that.”
“But my brain isn’t equipped to interpret smells from my tongue.” Nathan countered.
“You kind of already do,” said Nathan. “Your gustation receptors augment your olfactory receptors to provide the milieu of perception when you eat.”
“English please Genie, I already get too much of this in lecture.”
Genie sighed. “You know how when you have a cold everything tastes the same? That’s because so much of your perception of taste comes from your sense of smell. There’s a whole bunch of cross-talk between your taste and smell neurons. The bioengineers just… encouraged that with your Snake-stim.”
“They’re rewiring my brain?” Nathan asked, wondering what exactly he had just consented to.
“Yes and no. Like any evo-stim, the effects are only temporary.”
“If you say so…” Nathan said doubtfully.
Their conversation had led them all the way to the barracks.
“Don’t worry,” Genie said as he powered up the holo-screen at the foot of his bunk. “Worrying takes energy. You’ll need that for tomorrow.” He winked and flipped on a treatise concerning electric organ generation.
Nathan left Genie to his odd reading material and prepared for bed, an unsettling itching sensation already forming at his wrists. As he brushed his teeth, Nathan became aware of flavors he had never before noticed in his toothpaste. He looked at his brush askance. Nathan had been using the same toothpaste for fifteen years. He shrugged and finished his evening routine. Climbing into bed, Nathan felt as if he could taste the anticipation in the air as the rest of the recruits laid themselves to sleep.