03 June 2011


By Curtis C. Chen

"He needs a new skeleton," Gottlieb said.

Schumann glared for a moment, then turned his broad shoulders and sat down behind his office desk.

"In private," Schumann said.

Gottlieb closed the door and dropped the file on the General's desk. "I'll need your authorization for the procedure—"

"I'm not going to authorize the procedure," Schumann said.

Gottlieb blinked. "This is a medical emergency."

Schumann shook his head. "You need to remember who's in charge here, Doctor. I know the guy's your friend, you have history together, but this program is not your own private research lab. If I can't make a case for the operational benefit of a procedure, I can't authorize the funds for it. That's the bottom line."

It took Gottlieb a moment to unclench his jaw. "The operational benefit is that Paul Wilson doesn't die. Or is the United States government no longer in the business of keeping its citizens alive?"

"There's no need for insults, Doctor," Schumann said. He pushed away the file on his desk. "I've seen the updates. Wilson's condition isn't life-threatening. He'll be on his back for a few days until you figure out how to turn down the implants, and then you'll fix him."

"This isn't—" Gottlieb heard himself getting louder, and stopped before he started yelling at a three-star general. "Paul Wilson's enhancile is not purely technological. He has received gene therapy which alters the fundamental biochemical makeup of his muscles. We had to do that in order to keep the myasthenia gravis from destroying his soft tissue."

"I'm not an idiot, Doctor." Schumann stared right through Gottlieb. "Wilson's muscle growth is regulated by the implants. You can tune those to keep him from hulking out."

"We've been trying," Gottlieb said. "It's not working."

"Make it work."

"You tell me how to create some new amino acids and I'll get right on it."

Schumann sighed, opened the file, and scanned through it. "You've done this type of skeletal enhancement before?"

"Dogs and ponies. Literally," Gottlieb said. "But the principle is the same. It will work. I just need a signature."

Schumann closed the folder. "I'll sign on one condition. You need to put Wilson into the field."

Gottlieb shook his head. "He's not ready. We need to—"

"Don't bullshit me, Doctor," Schumann said. "You've released enhanced soldiers onto the battlefield two weeks after surgery. Wilson's been here for years."

"He's not a soldier. He doesn't—"

"I'm not asking him to be a soldier. I'm asking him to serve his country using his unique talents." Schumann opened a drawer and pulled out a reader tablet. "And he won't be alone."

Gottlieb frowned. "What are you proposing?"

"This isn't a proposal, Doctor. This is an order." Schumann pushed the tablet to the edge of his desk. "I'm putting together a task force. FBI's bringing in the candidates now, and they're shipping out as soon as you examine them and certify them fit for duty.

"This department's been making superheroes for three years. It's about time we started using them for something."


Photo: Strength by R.O Mania, June, 2008