Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Stewart-Benning Training Center, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
< “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu, Ancient Chinese Warrior.>
< “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America.>
< “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” James “Mad Dog” Mattis, General, United States Marine Corps.>
< “Fuck the big stick, just kill them all.” Unknown General during the Last Terran War.>
Coop scratched his head with one hand as he put down his PAD with the other. Both felt like they’d been rolled over by an old-fashioned car recently. Everything about him ached, and the drugs they were giving him only did so much. Then, just to be assholes, they were already weening him off them.
It had started off ok. He’d come out of surgery just fine. He’d lived, which was more than could be said about one of the other guys who was going heavy infantry. Eve and Mike made it through too, but Eve was still out. She’d had a lot more done to her than Coop or Mike.
It was about the time Coop regained consciousness that he was introduced to the wonders of nerve blocking. Nanites had infiltrated his nervous systems and shut down all feeling below his neck.
The docs said he was being paralyzed for a good reason. He could get himself and others hurt if he made any sudden movements, and that would be an egregious waste of taxpayers’ dollars. So he spent a full day doing nothing but looking at a holo screen above his head. If he wasn’t able to change the channel with voice commands he would have gone insane.
At the end of the first day the Doc had verified that the enhancements had “set” enough that they could unblock down to the waste. Coop immediately regretted her decision. Dull throbbing pain like a full-body migraine permeated everything. He hit the button for painkillers until he reached his limit, and then he just had to suffer.
GYSGT Cunningham came to visit him during that time.
“I know it fucking sucks, Cooper. But you’ve got to suck it up. I’ve been where you are, more than once, and I’m telling you that in another twenty-four hours the nanites will have taken care of most of the pain.” Then the woman did the unthinkable. She sat with him, held his hand, and helped him ride out the worst of the pain.
In the end she was right. A drug-induced sleep later, and the pain had subsided. He was still as sore as a two dollar whore after a gangbang, but he didn’t want to put himself out of his misery anymore.
He was still bedridden for another forty-eight hours, so all he had to keep him occupied was the holo and his PAD. He wished the cubes were lined up so he could see into the other operating rooms, but they were lined up in a row, and all he could see were the other recruits getting released from their little cubicles looking like a million bucks.
He watched the holo as long as he could, but the fake reality shows just made him want to kill something after the first hour; so he decided to read.
Coop was not a reader. He didn’t read his textbooks in high school. He’d never read any of the classics, and he didn’t read for fun. He had read multiple field and technical manuals, but that hadn’t been by choice.
“Check out The Modern Warrior,” Eve suggested over their video chat.
Coop was sorry to even think it, but Eve looked like shit. Her beautiful face was scared and swollen from the surgery, and she had some trouble talking. He didn’t say anything though. He knew modern medicine would have her looking a hundred percent in a few days and he didn’t want to ruin his chances.
But he did take her reading recommendation.
He really loved the quotes scattered throughout the book, and was smart enough to notice a pattern in them; which was a central theme of the book: War had grown less civilized over time.
“So this Tzu guy is all about outthinking your enemy. Then Teddy, who seems like a real badass, was all about being ready to throw down if needed. Same with this Mad Dog general. A general is an admiral today.” Coop clarified as he explained it all to Mike. “But just about everyone after Mad Dog just wanted to kill everyone else; no quarter, no surrender, just kill them before they kill you.”
“That’s deep.” Mike lived up to his reputation as a man of few words.
“Yeah, the whole book defines a modern warrior ethos, and compares modern soldiers to the generations that came before us.” Coop lay back in his bed.
“What they say?”
“That we’re the biggest, best equiped, most bad ass motherfuckers ever to kill other human beings in the history of mankind.” Coop grinned. It wasn’t a direct quote, but that was the gist of it.
“And now we’re HI, the biggest and baddest of them all.”
“Bring the Hurt.” Coop replied with the motto of their new branch. The GYSGT had made them commit it to memory before they went in for surgery.
On the fifth day, Coop, Mike, and Eve were certified fit to get out of bed and receive a post-surgical physical.
<Talk about fucking surprises.> Coop got out of bed, slightly crushing the handrail, and found himself looking down at everyone in the cube.
He hadn’t noticed it while he had most of his nerves blocked, or when he was lying down, but he had been changed. The thought made him a little light-headed, but he caught himself before he fell.
“I’m good.” Coop waved off the advancing, concerned nurses. “Just do what you gotta do.” The last thing he wanted was to be forced back into bed.
“Recruit Cooper, Mark, GIC TBCD0425241412631, Heavy Infantry enhancement procedure post-op one.” A young doctor announced to the cube, which immediately began to record the physical.
They started with simple stuff: height, weight, heart rate, blood pressure, hearing, eye sight, motor reflexes, all the stuff Coop would have been exposed to if he’d ever seen a doctor regularly as a kid growing up.
“Height, two-hundred and thirty-one centimeters.” Coop’s jaw nearly dropped at that one.
<What the fuck did they do to me?>
“Weight, two-hundred and two kilograms. Heart rate, fifty-eight beats per minute. Blood pressure one-twenty over eighty.” They put headphones on him and made him look at a holographic chart for the next few tests. “Hearing and eyesight are two times human standard.” Which meant he could see and hear things twice as good as a normal human.
They did the old smack you in the knee to see it jerk exercise too. Except, they used a large metal hammer to do the smacking and Coop nearly put an ill-placed cart through the polyplast wall when he hit it. On top of that, he barely felt the cold metal table striking his shin at all.
He was definitely tougher than any human had a right to be.
“Your epidermis is harder, just like your bones are denser and your muscles thicker. We grew you to accommodate the changes, and so you can adequately fit into the armor you’ll be wearing.” Despite more than doubling his weight and growing just shy of fifty centimeters, his physique hadn’t changed as much.
Coop had entered basic thin with the wiry muscles required to survive in the PHA with little food. Since getting his ass schooled by PO3 Janney and GYSGT Cunningham on a daily basic he’d put on a good bit of sculpted muscle. He was no longer thin, but had an athletic build with clearly defined muscles. The surgery didn’t bulk him up to look like a linebacker. He was still Coop, just taller, stronger and tougher than ever before.
<Coop 2.0.> He thought with a grin as he flexed his fists. He felt powerful.
“You’re green across the board.” The doctor concluded after doing everything including requiring Coop to turn his head and cough. “Tomorrow you’ll start to learn your new strength.”
Time, more nanites, and a meal full of special supplements had Coop’s recovery progressing nicely by the next morning. His body still felt like he had a giant muscle pull, but it was fine if he sat still. Unfortunately, that was exactly what the doctors were not going to let him do.
Half the day he spent alone running through ordinary activities. Simple things like physically opening doors, using a PAD, and shaking another person’s hand were done over and over until he’d instilled some muscle memory into his new body.
He had to look at the world in a whole different way. Like everything was fragile. He couldn’t do a firm handshake with anyone unless they initiated it and he felt their own increased strength. If he tried to be macho, or wanted to prove his toughness, he would grind the poor bastard’s bones into powder. Same with opening an old-fashioned door. He had to do it slow and gently or he’d rip the thing right out. What was most annoying was using utensils when he was really hungry. He stuck three metal forks through a polyplast table before he got pissed and smashed it in half with one fist.
They’d had to talk him down from breaking more things after that.
Then the GYSGT walked in, told him to stop being a pussy and figure shit out. Coop almost let his power go to his head, but he checked himself. She was HI, and a Ranger, so she could still whoop his ass.
What really helped was seeing Mike and Eve in what amounted to a physical therapy center. Mike was just fucking huge now. He had to be two hundred and fifty centimeters. He’d already been big, now he looked like he didn’t need an armored suit to take down whoever the fuck he wanted. But he still had the same cool and collected silent-man demeanor. Coop shook his hand and felt normal for a brief moment.
Then he saw Eve.
Her facial scarring wasn’t totally healed yet, but it somehow made her even hotter; that and her new hairdo. Half of her head had been shaved, so she looked remarkably similar to the GYSGT. She looked dangerous and sexy.
<I guess the half-shaved head isn’t a fashion statement or against regs.> Coop thought as he saw the scarring on her bare scalp.
She was bigger too, but still about seven centimeters smaller than Coop. Honestly, between them nothing much had physically changed.
“You look good.” Coop complemented her lamely as the PT assistants came out to run them through some range of motion exercises.
“I feel great.” Eve settled into the routine like some yoga master. “You look good too.”
Their light flirting ended there, but it picked up every day after that. Their training slowly progressed from simple stretching, to light resistance, to full-on strength training, and cardio workouts.
They spent a week doing those workouts, and Coop felt like a god.
He could run a kilometer in a minute. Eve was a couple seconds faster and Mike did it in about a minute-ten. Coop could squat, bench, and press multiple tons. Naturally, Eve was a bit weaker, but Mike benched three reps at forty-two hundred kilograms on his last workout and was squatting close to sixty-five hundred.
The other recruits looked on with awe and fear as Eve, Mike, and Coop blew them away at everything. For the navy pukes it was fun. They took bets on who would beat who at something. They laughed and joked and wanted to pal around with the heavies.
It was a different story for the normal infantry grunts.
They looked at the heavies with a mixture of respect and fear. They watched, learned, and hoped they’d never have to face a heavy in combat. Because if they did, there was no question in their minds they were going to meet their maker.
All of that was an afterthought to Coop. Partially because he was too busy being awesome and sneaking kisses with Eve.
<About fucking time.>
They still had a little time left and Coop was going to make the most of it.