On the first day, Dr. Mishka made Mack run on a treadmill for 4 hours as they emptied bag after bag of a purple solution into their veins. By the third hour, Mack was screaming in pain as their body started to turn red.
“Just one more hour!” Dr. Mishka cooed loudly over Mack’s grunting and tears. The muscles in Mack’s legs started to pulsate and started to swell. Their heart started to pump harder but slowed down in pace. The last 15 minutes of the treatment, Mack gasped, feeling a new type of runners high they never felt before. Tunnel vision set in as they picked up the pace on the machine. Dr. Mishka had a MedBay scan Mack as they hopped off the machine.
“Interesting. Your leg mass has bulked up.”
“YEAH! LET’S GO ON TO THE NEXT TEST. WOO, I’M RET TA GO, DOC.”
Dr. Mishka nodded, handing Mack a large glass.
Mack downed it in seconds only to regret it when they came up for air.
“UGH! What is this?!”
The MedBay started to scan Mack.
“Interesting. The tears in your muscles have healed quicker than they usually do. Oh, and that was just a meal drink. You’re going to be drinking those for the rest of the testing.”
Mack frowned. “I can’t eat real food?”
Dr. Mishka shook his head.
“I’ll knock all this shit over.”
Dr. Mishka shrugged.
“Price to pay to be able to whoop ass,” he said, looking over Mack’s chart.
After 2 hours of rest, the doctor had Mack fight a sparring machine for another 4 hours. The pain Mack had felt on the treadmill seemed like a distant memory as the pain in their arms turned into the tunnel vision from before. A few times, Mack thought they had seen the next movement the sparring machine was going to do, ducking and dodging the pads that tried to strick them. In the last half hour, Mack let out a grunt and punched the machine so hard it reset itself. Dr. Mishka blinked and stopped the testing.
“I think we’re good for this test,” he said quietly, handing Mack another meal drink.
That night, the doctor made Mack rest in an isolation water pod. As the water filled up to Mack’s neck, Mack couldn’t help but feel antsy.
“Are you sure this needs to happen?” They asked, looking up at the doctor.
“This is the last physical test. Tomorrow will be a long day of laying in bed with wires attached to your head and IVs in your arms. Just think of it as a hot tub.”
“But the water is cold.”
“Mm, is it?” The doctor closed the hatch.
Mack stood in the water, in the dark. Soft music started to play, which made Mack relax mentally. The water turned freezing, making Mack scream.
“FUCK, WHAT THE FUCK!”
When Mack got used to the temperature, it got even colder. Mack howled in agony, which turned into rage. This isn’t the kind of treatment they signed up to be a damn superhero. Or super anti-villain. As they sat in the cold water, their rage seemed to escape their body, slow turning the frigid water into room temperature.
Six hours later, the doctor opened the hatch, Mack asleep in almost boiling water. Mack looked up and smiled a bit.
The doctor gave Mack one last meal drink before having them take a shower and lay in bed.
“This will take about 6-8 hours, but with the way you’re handling this, probably less. I would wait a few hours after this treatment to actually eat, however.”
“Ohhh, I wonder if Zahari wants to grab a steak after this.”
Dr. Mishka chuckled.
“Your friend hasn’t been here since we started.”
Mack blinked, barely flinching as Dr. Mishka stabbed them with an IV catheter in their arm.
“Where did she go?”
“She didn’t say. While you were in the pod, she came back. I asked her if she was alright, if she needed anything and she looked at me like I kicked her dog.”
“That’s… not like her.”
“Mm, well, you’re more than welcome to contact her. You’re just going to be laying down.” He shoved another IV into their hand.
“So, this bag is just regular degular saline solution and this big boy,” Dr. Mishka said, slapping a blue IV bag that was double the size of the saline. “This one is the nanotech that you already have inside you.”
“So, I won’t be able to feel them wriggling inside me right?”
“Have you ever felt semen wriggle inside you?”
“Wow… I… Okay, you know what, fair. That’s fair.”
Mack stared out the window, watching a small, brightly colored snake devour a large, brightly colored bird. They were thinking about what the doctor said about Zahari. They were in talks about seeing a doctor about helping Zahari learn to walk again so the fact she not only said no but also gave the doctor the side-eye for just a standard check-up made Mack worry a bit.
Mack did want to see Zahari, but to be able to sit by their self in a quiet room was more important. The soft beep of their heart monitor lulled them into sleep.
An alarm woke Mack up hours later. Mack grunted and rolled over but yelled out when an explosion sounded.
The sound of many boots trampled through the hallway, voices barking orders over the speakers. The language that came from the speaker sounded so foreign to Mack. Someone burst into their room and started yelling at Mack, pulling them out of bed. Mack was suddenly aware they weren’t hooked up to their IVs. Panic set in for a second before their military training kicked on. They followed the person who was dressed in old style military fatigues. Another explosion rocked whatever building they were in.
The person kept speaking to Mack, looking back at them with a stern face. They handed Mack a pistol that Mack wasn’t familiar with but seemed simple enough to use. Mack nodded, still not sure of the orders given to them. The soldier nodded and smiled. Mack blinked, their heart stopping. Why did that smile seem so familiar?
They raced out the building, Mack being blinded by the sun. They stood on red rock, the sky full of red dust, smoke and fire. Gunfire was going off from turrets on the building, other soldiers yelling at each other as they took fire and cover. Mack looked up as old style fighter jets flew above, shooting at the turrets. Tanks were coming forward, firing shells at soldiers. Mack’s guide barked at them, grabbing their arm and pulling them toward a garage. They took an elevator down to a sublevel, a group of three other people meeting up with them. Mack looked at them, their gut feeling making their whole body feel like it was on fire.
All of these people looked familiar somehow. The guide’s smile started it all. The obvious sniper had the cold stare that Mack had seen in countless windows and mirrors. The engineer looked taller than the rest. The other soldier seemed to be the obvious tank of the group but Mack noticed the eye color. Mack looked for some sort of reflective surface and made an audible gasp when they saw their reflection They weren’t Mack at all, but still had Mack’s skin tone and body type. The other 4 looked over at them, the sniper saying something to Mack. Mack looked at them.
“No, I’m fine,” they said, but it came out in whatever language everyone else was speaking. Mack covered their mouth with their hand. The guide soldier blinked and walked to Mack, squinting at them. They said something else. Mack stared at them wide-eyed. The engineer waved a hand and barked orders at the group, pointing to a ship. Everyone boarded it but kept a close eye on Mack.
As the ship rose to the surface, everyone got dressed in outfits that were now standard for new recruits in the military. Mack put it on with ease, the rest of the crew struggled a bit. As the ship made it to the surface garage, the sniper and the engineer practically kicked out the rest of the group, before taking flight at the speed of sound, chasing after enemy aircraft. The obvious tank let out a hearty laugh, pulling out a rifle that shot grenades. They pressed a button on their outfit, the familiar sound of it charging made Mack smirk. The tank winked at Mack and took off in a sprint toward a group of enemy soldiers, cackling as the fire round after round into the group. The guide soldier chased after the tank, Mack followed.
Debris and rocks flew into the air, bullets whizzed past Mack’s face, grazing their shoulder, their thigh. The battle between the three of them and the two in the air was thrilling.
It wasn’t until Mack felt a sharp pain in their side that they fell behind cover. They looked down, seeing blood pour from their waist.
“Oh…” they whispered, smiling a bit. The guide soldier came up to Mack, holding a hand to their face. They mumbled something in their language. Mack smiled, their voice sounding farther and farther away.
The sound of a gun going off and the searing, burning pain in Mack’s forehead made Mack sit up in their bed. Their heart monitor raced but it still wasn’t as fast as their actual heart. Dr. Mishka raced in, his eyes wide.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
With tears in their eyes and a laugh in their voice, Mack answered, “I don’t know anymore.”