Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Coop wasn’t afraid of hospitals, but he wasn’t the biggest fan either. Nobody was really a fan of hospitals. Who liked to go someplace where you were either sick or injured?
<Doctors and hypochondriacs,> he thought as he followed Eve through the hanger bay.
Coop had only been to the medical clinic in the PHA once. The line was always out the door for the single physician’s assistant or nurse that was on duty, so Rats figured out how to deal with anything but the worst problems. Coop had been forced to go by his father when he’d been shot, but anything less than that was what the prominent Rat considered a teachable moment.
Getting a deep cut in his arm from some junkie wanting his BSA ration got a huff and a “hand me the dental floss” from the hard, old man.
When Coop came home with his dick on fire he was told to rub some dirt on it until he could buy some drugs off the dude at the corner. The pharmacy in that guy’s coat was better than what the clinic had anyway.
Coop had already been in a hospital twice as much since starting Basic. He was sure his dad would have approved of a visit after lethal poisoning and getting his jaw shattered. But that was only an assumption.
The other recruits of Echo Company had been assigned rooms as they went deeper into the grid formation of mobile hospital centers. The “rooms”, which were composed of four walls of plastic curtains, gave the recruit a modicum of privacy. Each room was full of at least one doctor and a nurse or two. The Company was vastly outnumbered by the medical personnel in the hanger.
Coop only felt slightly trapped in the entire scenario.
By the time they reached the back of the grid sections it was only Eve, Coop, Mike, and the two other recruits that were going heavy infantry. Their operating rooms were different, and that made him nervous. Instead of plastic curtains, they’d be spending the next week in modular polyplast cubes complete with a small section for decontamination. Coop could see through their clear walls and watched the five-man medical teams buzzing like bees around honey. Including the doctor leading them, that meant they’d each have six people operating on them to turn them into all that they could be.
Coop gulped, and his stomach fell into his feet. He didn’t let Eve see it though. There was no way she’d get with a chicken shit. So he sucked it up, just like his old man taught him, and tried to look like this was just another training exercise.
“Give me a few minutes with the teams and then we’ll call you in one at a time.” The doctor smiled at the five of them. “You’ll be out for most of the next week, but then you’ll all be in rehab together. If you have anything to say to each other then I suggest saying it now.” She disappeared into the first cube that gave a soft hiss as it shut behind her.
Eve, Coop, and Mike didn’t know the other two guys getting the procedure so they ignored them.
“Well…” Coop scratched his head trying to think of something to say. “Don’t die I guess.”
Mike let out a single gruff laugh, and extended his hand. “You too. Hopefully we’ll be in the same HI class.”
“You watch my back and I’ll watch yours.” Coop shook his hand and then turned to Eve.
“Don’t get all emotional on me now, Cooper.” Her harsh words didn’t match the smile on her face.
“You know me, boss-lady.” He grinned back, letting her fill in the blanks.
“I do know you.” She pulled herself closer and Coop felt his heartbeat skyrocket. “So do me a favor.” She invaded his personal space.
Coop could feel her breath on his face and the warmth of her body hovering just a centimeter away from his. If she got any closer she’d feel his excitement.
“If you see a white light, or more likely smell sulfur, give it the finger and come back. I haven’t released you from duty yet.” She rose onto the balls of her feet and planted a short kiss on his cheek.
Coop felt warmth blossom through him and his skin flushed hot.
“Um…yeah…yeah sure.” After that, Coop wasn’t going to die. He was going to live, and judging by that farewell, he’d be living balls deep in Eve when they both recovered.
“Recruit Berg!” The doctor called from the cube farthest to the right. “We’ll start with you.”
Eve took a deep breath, gave them an “everything is fine” look over her shoulder, and disappeared into the modular operating room.
Then came the waiting. <Fucking waiting.> Coop thought he was going to have diarrhea from the growing stress. With Eve gone he allowed his anxiety to show.
Twenty minutes later the doctor came back and got Coop.
“Just stand still,” she explained as the cube door hissed shut behind them. In front of them was a second clear, polyplast door that remained closed.
There was a second hiss and jets of steam sprayed down on them. “Decontamination complete. No foreign bodies detected.” The cube spoke and the second doors open.
“Everyone, this is Recruit Mark Cooper, but he likes to be called Coop.” The doctor introduced him to the team.
“Coop,” the doctor made sure he was looking at her, “my team and I are going to take very good care of you. We’ve all done this procedure dozens of times with a ninety-five percent success rate. We’re very good at what we do. I want you to know you’re in good hands.”
Coop felt himself relax a bit, and then the doctor led him over to the operating table. He felt his sphincter pucker as he looked at what had to be half-table, half-torture device.
<Son of a bitch!> The rest of the team had been tactically blocking his view of the table until now.
His step faltered, and he felt a strong push from behind. The doctor was stronger than she looked.
“I know it looks like something out of a horror movie.” The doctor continued to prod him along until two of her nurses, both big guys, were able to take both his arms and get him on the table. “But it’s necessary to do what we need done. And then it’s necessary for your protection. So just lie down and relax.”
<Holy shit! Holy shit!> Coop laid down on autopilot as the nurses strapped him in, and the straps weren’t leather or plastic. They were made of cold, hard duro-steel.
“We need to take a bit of blood now for your genome mapping.” The doctor had pulled on gloves and grabbed a thankfully small needle.
Getting stuck with the needle and having the blood drawn hurt, but he ignored it.
“That was good.” She smiled and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Yeah, that wasn’t too bad.” Coop actually got his hopes up.
And then the nurses brought up a cart that had a dozen injection guns on it.
“This is going to hurt a little more.” The doctor took one of the guns and gently lifted his head to place it where his skull met his neck. “But we need these markers and monitors to see the muscular-skeletal growth progress.” She didn’t give him any more warning.
There was a loud SNAP as a nanite injection was pumped into Coop’s spine.
“Motherfucker!” Coop screamed as he strained against the steel restraints. It didn’t do any good, and it didn’t help as the rest of the injections were shot into predetermined parts of his body.
Coop nearly blacked out from the pain, but he still felt his smartcloth uniform pulled off, a smaller piece of fabric laid over his crotch, and then a final restraint fastened over his waist.
“Good job, Coop.” The doctor’s face swam back into focus as his vision righted itself.
Despite the lingering pain, Coop managed a laugh. “I’m just peachy, Doc.”
“Good.” She smiled her warm smile that he now found evil. “I need to let this sit for a few minutes until we get a good signal on everything and then I’ll put you out.”
“Put me out?” Coop’s forehead crinkled at the statement.
“Of course, we aren’t going to keep you awake for the procedure. That would be cruel. It is incredibly painful. I’ll put you in a medically induced coma and then pull you out once we’re finished and the enhancements set.”
<A coma!> Coop didn’t like the sound of that one bit.
“I’ll be back soon.” She smiled her damned smile again, removed her protective gear, and left Coop alone with the rest of the surgical team.
“How you feeling, buddy?” One of the big nurses asked, sounding like he was talking to a young child or a dog.
“This fucking sucks! How do you think it feels?” Coop snapped back. Ending all further conversation with the team until Doctor Evil-Smile returned.
She walked back in and went directly to the holographic monitors hovering in the air next to Coop. “It looks like we’ve got a good signal and can get started.”
The team had stuck Coop with various needles while she was gone, and now they started to hook up tubes to them. He had at least one tube on each major limb and multiple ones in his chest.
Coop didn’t mind the needles and tubes that were sticking out of him now. They just itched and were mildly irritating. What freaked him the fuck out was the thing that started to move toward him with the assistance of anti-grav tech.
The closest thing he could compare it to was a sarcophagus’ lid. It had a head shaped space that rounded out for shoulders to comfortably fit in, and then was a solid block from there down to the feet. It had to be heavy, or they would have used a mechanical arm instead of anti-grav, but it was what was inside the sarcophagus-like thing that made Coop nearly shit himself.
It was needles. Lots and lots of needles. Some were small and thin, others were big and long; and they were moving. Coop saw the red blink of a full-body scan and dozens of dots sprung to life all over him. Then the needles moved to match up with those dots.
“Calm down, Coop. Everything is ok.” The doctor comforted him.
Coop didn’t even realize he was struggling and hyperventilating.
“You’re not going to feel anything, I promise.” The doctor made a motion to someone he couldn’t see, and Coop immediately felt liquids flowing into him from the tubes.
He felt sleepy, started to doze, but then fought it.
<No way in hell am I’m going to let that thing gut me like a fish.> He tried to struggle, but it was useless against twenty-fifth century medicine.
“I want you to count backwards from one hundred, Coop.”
He could still see the doctor although his vision was starting to recede and darken around the edges.
“One hundred…ninety-nine…” He gave into his fate. “Ninety…” And he was out.
The doctor checked his vitals on the holos, and opened his eyes to wave a light in them. She got no response.
“Ok, he’s ready. Prognosis?”
“Everything we’re reading is good.” A younger doctor on his PAD was looking over data. “He should survive.”
“Good.” The senior doctor’s smile grew tired. “You’ve got it from here. I need to personally supervise the Ranger candidate’s surgery.”
“Of course.” The junior doctor tried to hide his enthusiasm and failed. “Let’s get started.” He stated the moment the senior doctor exited the cube. “Procedure one, initiate.
The medical contraption slowly lowered itself onto Mark Cooper, and came to rest silently on top of the recruit like he was some ancient mummy. You wouldn’t even know it had practically impaled Coop in dozens of places, sticking needles deep into his bones and muscles, and started to pump him full of proprietary technology.
Coop didn’t even twitch. He was as good as dead.