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The Teaser for this story is found here: http://muscle-growth.org/topic/5008-teaser-for-the-new-story-project-defender/ DEDICATION I dedicate this story, which is my first, in gratefulness to all the persons who have given me advice: Scriptboy and Alexdrake who assisted with the translations in Chapter 2; Jocaflo, who taught me about Portuguese name customs; Arpeejay who gave me advice on stats (although I only followed most, and not all, of them); gecko888 who declined to let the French become main protagonists, but taught me a few thing about the French Armed Forces; and T. and W. who proofread (you know who you are). All quirks and oddities are the author’s own. Since English isn't my native language, please send me a message, if I am incomprehensible. Some things may have become corrupted in translation. DISCLAIMER The following Chapter do contain descriptions of verbal abuse, nakedness and sexually aroused men, a military-industrial environment, speciesism, a library scene with religious and atheist books, jokes about national stereotypes, a smaller amount of uncouth speech, together with a lot of Northern European irony and sci-fi references probably best understood by the age range born 1960-1990. If you may take offence of anything aforementioned, you are hereby strongly reckommended to not read further. Please, go away. You have been warned. DON'T PANIC Oh, and another thing: If the complicated background (which is two thirds of Chapter One) tire you out, you can jump right to 'It was afternoon again. Lamarck and Gospodinov had beeen unusually...' after three stars ***, in order to come to the growth bit, but you wouldn't understand the sci-fi-scientific lingo then. Project Defender – Chapter 1 My heart sank in my breast, and I felt a feeling of foreboding coldness in my belly, when the army jeep entered the slope leading down into the subterranean tunnel. On our way there, I had watched the skies nervously for any vessels, but the Pseudo-Crustacean Extra-Terrestrial Organisms had seemingly chosen to attack another part of the European mainland that day, so we arrived unharmed. When we had passed through the Outer Perimeter a few minutes earlier, I had heard conversations in Finnish, English (with an Irish accent) and a handful of languages I didn’t recognise among the rugged, camouflage-painted snipers around the smoking wood-fires. Several days later I was briefed, that Finland, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine had volunteered to man the Outer Perimeter. I didn’t envy them, but sent them my thoughts of gratitude, since it was their dangerous duty outside, which made my assiduous work inside possible and undisturbed. The jeep continued on its way downward in the asphalt-coated meandering tunnel. On two consecutive levels we had to await the opening of armoured steel gates painted in black and yellow. Outside the first gate, the air was moist, and smelled of gasoline and rubber, but inside the gate, the jeep switched into electric mode. Silently purring without any fumes, the vehicle took us to our destination. I wasn’t surprised to find out, that my phone-watch didn’t work under the surface. The Inner Gate at the end of the Parking Hall (a natural cavern, enlarged and carved into rectangular shape by human hand) was connected to a keypad lock with microphone and speaker. ’Doctor Skrefsrud reporting for duty.’ I hoped that I used Army Speak correctly. University research teams were not environments, which trained for dealing with servicemen. ’Welcome, Doctor Skrefsrud.’, answered the metallic voice of the speaker. The gate opened for me and the driver, revealing a man-sized concrete passageway leading into Research Facility B. It was at this facility we had been ordered to assist in the defence against the Extra-Terrestrials (or PCETOs), by ’improving the performance of military human resources’, as the classified report preferred to express the purpose. All of it wasn’t classified actually. Certain parts of the scientific tools had been reported in newspapers, and an early undefined Pan-European plan about ’space marines’ had been debated in public several years ago, but nothing had happened then. And now a space invasion occurred. If the Project had been led by the European Union, several states, such as Iceland, Norway, Albania or Ukraine would have been unable to participate, and Switzerland, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden would have refused to participate if the initiative had been taken by NATO, but since the Project was now launched by an entirely different international European body, they all agreed to do their part. The member countries had reacted in very different ways. France enthusiastically backed the project financially, and sent us their two required test subjects according to the letter of the agreement, together with a chef. UK told us, they should ’explore other means beside this laudable initiative’, but sent us lots of medical supply, two officers with a past in the SAS, a physicist and a sports medicine physician. The German negotiators obliged to take the major part of the financial burden for the Project, but informed us, that they declined to send any men at all, due to domestic political concerns. The Italian negotiator – a former Prime Minister – assured that Italy was willing to support the Project financially in many small amounts of money delivered according to a long-term plan, and tried to convince the coordinators, that a much larger share of Italian test subjects would be reasonable, ’since Italian men are more masculine than other Europeans’. I later heard a rumour, that the Spanish and Greek representatives tried to leave the negociations in an angry hurry at that moment, but our coordinators (Norwegian and Swiss diplomats, together with military officers from Ireland and Ukraine respectively) politely declined the offer: The Italians had to send just their agreed number of two men, and the placated Spanish and Greek representatives remained at the meeting until it closed. We had no fuzz with the smaller countries, but were somewhat surprised, when Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco sent two test subjects each. Iceland have no army in the ordinary sense, but sent two coast guards instead. Vatican City informed us, that we ’served in a just war, if we defended the innocent’, but, due to a treaty, Vatican City was hindered to send any participants itself. Switzerland was constitutionally hindered to send any combatants on its own behalf, but sent us two Swiss Guards on the behalf of the Vatican instead. None of us on medical staff complained: The healthy, weapon-trained twenty-five year olds, sent by the Swiss, were probably more attuneable to the Project, than a pudgy, middle-aged, non-combatant, retired Ethics professor, a clerical office boy, or whatever the Vatican otherwise had been able to spare. I was met at the entrance of my new environment by Doctor Smith, an acquaintance from an international research conference. I didn’t know him very well, but, a couple of years ago, he had presented an interesting paper about Morphogenetic Fields. ’Nice to see you again, Doctor Skrefsrud. Let us skip Army Speak, while we are among fellow scientists. You will see, that the Research Facility keep us in three different areas: Military personnel at Hall 3-6-1, administration and nurses at 3-6-2 and us clever ones at 3-6-3.’ I followed Smith through the corridors carved into the stone. Research Facility B was a very vast complex of cavernous halls, coldly lit by old-fashioned fluorescent tubes. We passed an office hall with desks, computers and folders, staffed by the coordinators, Hansen and Müller, Novák, the Amanuensis and Andersson, the Registrar. ’Initially, Sweden and the Czech Republic – who had been given responsibility for the bureaucracy – wished to send women as office staff, due to equality concerns, but the European level decided against it – being worried about the risk of harassment, I suppose. Actually, several countries wished to send one male and one female soldier, but that was vetoed by Gospodinov, our endocrinologist. It was something about oestrogen balance and bad experiences from female shot-putters, back in the days. I didn’t listen attentively, I’m afraid, since endocrinology is not my field. We are only men here, now. An unusual environment, compared to my usual Oxford lab team, but I do not complain.’ Then we entered the mess hall. ’Since the Project is such a small unit, hastily gathered together in an emergency situation, there is no reason to uphold the difference between several different mess halls. I suppose the presence of us civilians has contributed to upset the ordinary structures somewhat. They didn’t know how to organise us, really.’, Smith said. ’But Major Murphy and Captain Melnyk usually sit at the short table close to that wall – reminds me of Refectory back at St. Cynhelm’s, actually – and the entire scientific department is allowed to sit there, if we wish. We have been given some slack, and we are allowed to eat together with the office staff or the test subjects if we wish. I don’t expect the grunts to read Einstein, Hawking or Vera Rubin, though.’ Smith pointed out the corridor leading to the test subjects’ living quarters, the corridor leading to the officers’ and office staff’s living quarter, the laundry, the gym, the showers, Inventory, Infirmary, meditation room, and the corridor leading to the research area. ’We have eighty-four test subjects at our disposal, organised into eleven smaller squads. Even if the result wouldn’t be optimal at the first trials, it wouldn’t take too long until we understand how to facilitate the procedure to maximum extent, or so I hope, anyhow.’ Smith was of slightly short stature, and, despite the years still left until his fortieth birthday, a somewhat rotund belly had began to grow at his mid-section. I was a few years younger than him, and had achieved my doctoral degree at the age of 31, some years before. When he brought me to the scientists’ living quarters, I found out that Smith, Green (the British sports medicine physician) and László (the hunky Hungarian nutritionist and trainer) and myself were scientists in our 30’s, and that the remaining three scientists all had passed their 60th birthday. We were assisted by four male nurses in their late twenties. We arrived at the living quarters for scientific personnel. I put my belongings in a locker, washed my face, and brought a handful of files with me to the lab. *** The following day I was focussed on directing the engineers while they unpacked most of our scientific equipment, but – to the consolation for all of us – the Dark Matter cyclotron had arrived and been installed long before my own arrival. I was therefore not fully aware that the corridors began to echo of arriving recruits, the youngest of them recently promoted to the rank of corporal at the instance they accepted the assignment to this very specialised company – the first of its kind. The briefing took place in the evening. Each of us had been instructed to give extremely short lectures in laymen’s terms – not necessarily an easy objective for a bunch of persons so accustomed to University. Major Murphy ordered silence, and in very few words presented The Program, and Captain Melnyk presented himself for the sake of the late arrivals, who hadn’t met him yet. They then assigned the scientific team to present the different aspects of The Program. ’Gentlemen. I am Professor Gruber. My area is brain physiology. My field of expertise is an entirely new way of imprinting new knowledge and new habits into the brains of persons, and enhance the speed of such things as reflexes and tactical decisions. I look forward to work together with you.’ The gaunt and bald Austrian neurological expert in his very strict grey suit, looked out over the audience with his penetrating ice-blue eyes, and ended his short speech. Gruber’s dry, aloof and abrupt style of addressing non-academicians only served to enhance László’s more relaxed and humorous style, when the latter spoke to the soldiers the same way he was accustomed to address footballers, weightlifters and bodybuilders, when he coached them: ’Hi. I’m Doctor László, but you may call me Csaba. The politician and the footballers are no relatives of mine, if you wonder.’ He chuckled. Only the two Hungarian test-subjects laughed. Under his lab coat László was dressed in a sweatshirt, tracksuit pants and sneakers. A stopwatch hanged around his neck, and he wore a heart rate reading device around his wrist. ’I am sorry that your meals will be measured with precision, and you will not be allowed to eat more than what I and my colleague here, Doctor Green, will allow. The meals will follow a planned and calculated pattern, with larger servings some days, and smaller servings some days. I assure you, that this is not at random. Theoretically, the pattern of your nutritional intake will cooperate with the other augmentation factors of The Program, to make you the best of the best. Every morning the nurses will take blood samples, urine samples and check your blood pressure. I will give you a training programme for physical exercise, and – as those of you who arrived early already have found out – we have an excellent gym at the Facility. Each one of you will see me and Doctor Green at least every eight day during the project, and the training programme will soon become individually tailored. The good news are, that servings at the meals will become larger for those who have undergone the procedure, and that it was decided that France and Italy would be responsible for sending chefs to The Program.’ Cheering from the Italians and the French. No-one else seemed to disagree, however. I looked out over a crowd of men of almost every European nationality. All of them had finished at least basic military training and served a few years, but, beyond that, their years in service ranged considerably. The youngest were 21 years old, while the most experienced of them were in their mid-30’s like László, Smith and myself. They had been sent here, not because of their age, not because of their years in service, or their military rank, but because of their performance ratings. A slender, clean shaven and rather tall man past his sixtieth year, dressed in the latest fashion suit under his lab coat, took the microphone. A moderately short carpet of dark grey frizzled hair covered his head elegantly, and a scent of a luxurious after shave was unavoidable to notice. His dark, sad and thoughtful eyes looked out over the audience. His pronunciation of English words was humming with the slightest French accent. ’ I am Doctor Lamarck. I research in genetics. The biological genetic makeup of each individual is a factor which determines the way he looks, many of his abilities and the way he reacts. Some diseases are not contagious but hereditary. In our research to cure hereditary diseases, we have discovered mechanisms, which could potentially be used to enhance physical prowess in healthy individuals. The limits of how fast, strong, enduring and quick thinking an individual is are determined by genetic factors, but we now believe that we are able to remove these limits. ’Most of you have heard about viruses, like that which cause the common cold. Besides bad viruses, which causes diseases, there are useful viruses. There are also neutral viruses – as it were – which neither cause good or bad effects on us. Modern genetic studies use such neutral viruses as a sort of vehicles or carriers of the sort of modified human DNA we hope will cure a patient. The patients’ immune systems will remove the viruses after a couple of days, but the modified DNA will stay and multiply. This method may also be used in order to enhance speed, endurance, strength or quick thinking. ’A more recent method use something called nano particles. The patient inhale the particles, which are programmed to rebuild the genetics of the patient. This is still on an experimental stage, but my team has researched for a long time, by now, how to use viral treatment and nano treatment in tandem. I have read that all of you are very good soldiers. I will rebuild you into perfect soldiers.’ The audience was murmuring excitedly for a few seconds. The sight of the men confirmed the impression I had gathered by reading their files: They were all very fit, but that common characteristic didn’t mean that they all looked the same. Far from it. Many seemed to enjoy frequent time at the gym, but without any considerable interest in fat loss or competitions. Some slim and lean (but very hard, sinewy and defined) soldiers, like the little Portuguese and his Polish friend, had very good ratings when it came to endurance tests and extremely long marches with lighter backpacks, and looked like what sprinters or fitness competitors would have looked, if they had developed more functional physiques. More than a handful of the test subjects were into bodybuilding. One of the Icelanders had competed in Strongman competitions, and had an entirely different type of physique. Some of the test subjects were under average height, but most of them were slightly above average. A handful of them were very tall – among them the Icelander and my fellow Norwegians, I proudly noticed. Doctor Gospodinov was a Bulgarian endocrinologist, close to retirement age. His hair was a formless tufty mass of grey and white, trying to escape in every direction. He was a broad shouldered man with dark brown eyes, somewhat under middle length and with a pot belly. He had unusually large cheeks, looked tired (which wasn’t surprising, since all of us had worked hard with the engineers to make the prototype chambers working), and was puffy under his eyes. He was dressed elegantly in a timeless three-piece suit under the white lab coat, and, while the rest of us had left watches and phones behind us years ago for contemporary phone-watches of different brands, he had an old-fashioned pocket watch in his waistcoat. He gave the impression to dislike the public speech situation, especially since the audience wasn’t composed of medical students. ’I am Doctor Gospodinov. I teach medicine, and I have researched on athletes my entire life. I will not bore you with giving you a full lecture in medicine. The reason that you were all surgically given a subcutaneous implant before arriving here – and as a matter of fact all of us were, although by different reasons – was to ensure easy access into your venous systems. The viral treatment by Doctor Lamarck and the hormone treatment by me will be administered through the membrane under the skin of your chest. If you want to enhance the performance of a man, it will not do to just tinker with one of the hormones, and it may even be counterproductive. A heightened dose of one performance-enhancing chemical may lower the dose of another useful and beneficial chemical. You need to take all biochemical substances naturally produced and used by the human body, and make them all interact in the right direction, in a concerted effort. If you believe that my job in this Project is to inject you with any new super-steroid, you are wrong. The negative side-effects of such a substance, if it existed, would outdo any positive effects – I suppose some of you may have heard about the bad complications of overuse of cortisone against inflammations? My job in this Project is to stimulate your own bodies to permanently produce the optimal balance of all the body’s own performance enhancing substances. After the initial treatment with this new stimulating formula – the exact composition of which is actually classified – you will not need any ongoing medication, and the effect will come from within yourselves, not from any injections or pills. The effect will remain the rest of your lives. Doktor Skrefsrud?’ Gospodinov had misjudged how much medical knowledge the recruits possessed, and he had lost most of them, despite his attempt to dumb down the subject. The awake and intelligent glimmer in the eyes of a lean and small Pole and his wiry and slim little Portuguese buddy did, however, show that not the entire class was asleep. It was my turn to speak now. I cleared my throat, and felt intimidated by standing before this sort of audience. A Dutch test subject had a very arrogant body language, and looked intently on me and the other scientists in an unnerving way with his green eyes. I cleared my throat. ’My name is Doctor Skrefsrud, and I am a physicist, just like Doctor Smith here. I will not go into any boring details, but I guess, that you will feel easier about what’s going on, if I explain the basic idea about what you will endure. You have all read about the Big Bang in Science Class at school, I suppose. The Universe expands at unfathomable speed. All visible material things are composed by a sort of matter we call ’baryonic matter’, since it is built by particles called ’baryons’: We can easily observe it, weigh it, measure it. What is less known, is that the Universe behaves in such a way, as there ought to exist another sort of matter: not easily observed, not easily measured. The expansion of the universe would render asunder the galaxies, if this other matter didn’t exist. We call it ”dark matter”, but please do not attach any importance to the word ”dark”. It is just a figure of speech.’ I had become accustomed to be perfectly clear on this account, when I educated undergraduates. The most silly and unfounded ideas could be spawned by the randomly chosen word ’dark’. It doesn’t mean ”bad”. ’There also exist ”dark energy”. For many decades, dark matter and dark energy were only hypothesised by the means of mathematics. Then, quite recently – in the early 2020’s – dark matter particles were observed by revolutionarily new means of observation. If you read science-fiction stories or comics in childhood, you know stories where the heroes get strange powers by radioactivity. In real life it doesn’t work that way: Too high amounts of radioactivity would give you cancer, not super-powers.’ The audience chuckled in a low voice. ’But dark energy radiation is not the same thing as radioactivity, since it is not baryonic.’ The audience abruptly fell silent. ’My mentor’s team has researched in several years on the probably beneficent effects of certain dark matter particles and radiation frequencies, in the hope to apply it medically. We are already in the early stages of successfully curing muscular dystrophy. In the future, we hope to help people who’ve lost a limb to grow a new limb. I know it sounds like science-fiction to you, and we haven’t reached our goal yet, but we have reason to believe, that we have the means to make Earth’s defenders against the PCETOs much better soldiers: More fit, more physically persistent, more powerful. I call this technology ’Hypertrophic Radiation’. Doctor Smith will now tell you more about how physics may help us in the war.’ Hair colours of all sorts gleamed in the artificial light, short-cut in different fashions: Buzz cuts, flattops, jarheads, short mohawks or shaved entirely. Ash-blond and fair brown seemed to be the most common hair colour among European men. Neither ’black’ nor ’blond’ are very good words to describe the variety of other actual hair colours: The glossy ’black’ of the Portuguese lads was something different from the velvet ’black’ of the two hunky Hungarians. Although you may have called the rye and golden hues of some Scandinavian test subjects ’blond’, these were actually two different colours, and these two colours also differed from the cream-coloured or almost white ’blondness’ of the two Estonians, one of the Ukrainians, one of the Finns and one of the Poles. Three of the test subjects were ginger: One of the Norwegians, one of the Britons (who stood there side by side to his Caribbean-British colleague) and one of the Irishmen. One of the men sent by France looked like he was of Polynesian-French descent. Since performance trumped everything, they didn’t share exactly the same background. Some of them were recruited from Special Units of several sorts, some from frogman units, paratroop units or marines, also depending on the various ways armed forces were organised in different European countries. ’Besides the discovery of hypertrophic radiation, which Doctor Skrefsrud just mentioned, the breakthrough in Dark-Matter-research, after a while, also confirmed the existence of Morphogenetic Fields, or Sheldrake-fields, as they also are known. Rupert Sheldrake had hypothesised about Morphogenetic Fields back in the 20th century, but very few scientists took his hypothesis seriously. That changed when Dark-Matter-research grew out of its initial phase. Now you ask: What is a Morphogenetic Field? We already knew the importance of the biological genetical makeup of each individual, as Doctor Lamarck already has described. Secondly, potential personal traits and abilities may blossom or lay dormant, dependent on outward factors such as education, physical exercise or food. But besides these two groups of factors, we now know a third group of factors: Morphogenetic Fields influence our physical development. It also seems like Morphogenetic Fields would contain and guide Hypertrophic Radiation to stimulate brain tissue, skeletal and muscular growth in certain ways. It seems like we are now able to control in which ways the Morphogenetic Fields form an organism. Each of the factors we work with in this scientific team would, on its own, enhance and augment your capacity, but the combined effect of all these factors together is so much greater. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask me after this briefing.’ *** The interviews began the following day. At the end of the day, I was exhausted by interviewing twenty-four of the men, and so were all my colleagues, with the notable exception of the inexhaustible Professor Gruber. It took us four days to interview them all. By then, László and Green had given them their individualised training programmes. The individualised meal-plans would reach the Mess Hall Kitchen next morning. Although the Project was officially meant to be performed in English, French and German simultaneously, it didn’t took long time, until we found out that it would be more practical to use English as main spoken language (although notes were written down in all the three languages). The Polish and Czech test subjects spoke German much more fluently than I did myself, but anyhow seemed reluctant to speak German. I tried to be polite, when I interviewed the Belgian, Swiss, Luxembourger, Andorran and Monegasque test subjects, and so using French, but they seemed to enjoy an opportunity to practice their English, especially one of the Belgians (who spoke Flemish at home) and the Swiss, the native tongues of whom happened to be Arpitan and Romansh. The French test subjects listened very amused to my stumbling pronunciation of the French vocabulary, and then proposed that the interview ’should continue in English, perhaps?’ The Liechtensteiners and Austrians (including Professor Gruber) would have preferred German to anything else, but since everyone else spoke English, they quickly adapted. It made the work much easier, not only for me, but also for Andersson, the Registrar from Sweden, who – although he read both languages – was reluctant to speak German or French. When I interviewed the two test subjects from UK, Jones and Taylor, I found out that they, too, were relieved when the trilingual rule was softened: None of them spoke anything else than English, and they had initially felt sheepish when they had been addressed in French or German. We worked much longer working days, than the usual eight hours, since time was essential, and a swift breakthrough in our experiment could mean life or death for so many persons. The four nurses were initially scheduled with extra recreation, since we knew that they had to be rested when night hours at Infirmary began. We needed, however, some sleep and recreation in order to think clearly, in order to not put the test subjects at risk. I found out, that our elder colleagues kept together in our free time, and seemed like fish out of water at the Facility. It took less than three days, until Gruber, Gospodinov and Lamarck began to keep together outside working hours. Most of the time they sat in the living quarters at 3-6-3, but sometimes they gathered in the Lab, since Gospodinov had a habit of smoking his cigars under the fume hood. The alternative for the four of us younger researchers, was to spend free time together, or together with some of the test subjects or office workers, either at Mess or at the Gym. *** Green and László had mainly worked together with athletes during their professional careers, and both maintained an overall healthy life style even privately. It was easy for them to befriend those among the test subjects who were interested in weight training (although that was far from all). Despite my resultless experience of weight training, I had nothing against following Green and László to the gym during lunch hour. ’Have we heard anything more from the Yankees or the Russians?’, Green asked László on our way into the gym. ’No. It seems like the transatlantic cable broke and several satellites went down quite early in the attack from the Space Squid. Kiev lost telephone- and web-connection with Moscow and Beijing. We don’t know what happens elsewhere. It is up to us now. This experiment got to work correctly, and that soon.’ László changed subject, and eyed me professionally: ’Have you worked out before, Skrefsrud? I see that your body fat is low?’ ’Actually, I worked out at a gym during my graduate studies, in order to give it a try,but since I didn’t achieve any visible results, and continued to be scrawny, I quit the gym, but continued jogging. Is the word ”hardgainer” a current one? Some of my fellow students used that word about me.’ ’Oh yes. It is a rather common situation. Some people have to eat incredible amounts in order to achieve any muscle gain. Perhaps you followed the meal plan of dieters or a baseline one. It is useless for ectomorphs.’ The scent of steel, subtly corroding of salty sweat, filled the gym, but was mixed by whiffs of talcum powder, rubber carpets and cheap anti-perspirants like Lynx. The clang and clink of weight-plates hitting each other or steel bars hitting power rack stands echoed among the stone walls, only slightly subdued by the rubber carpets. Some of the recruits had made themselves at home in the gym from Day 1. László stopped at a leg curl machine, used at the moment by two British SAS-officers: The ginger Lieutenant Jones and the Jamaican-British Lieutenant Taylor – the latter with the good looks of a young Cassius Clay. I listened absent-mindedly for a few seconds, but thought it a good idea to say hello to the men at the nearest bench. It happened to be the rather tall Polish frogman Sergeant Zielinski, his compatriot, the short paratrooper Corporal Kowalski, and the short Portuguese, Corporal Soares. Soares was lifting a bar of probably his own weight. Many of the test subjects were rather clamorous and boastful individuals, but the 21 year old Kowalski was unusually silent and reserved. Almost shy. He had a lean physical constitution, witnessing an ability to persevere and endure in extreme conditions. I had noticed that he worked out very seriously at the gym, but, despite this, he hadn’t achieved any typical bodybuilder-physique. The downy stubble on his scalp was cream-coloured and almost white. A silver pendant hung around his neck in a rather heavy chain, but I wasn’t able to see what it depicted. Corporal Soares was of the same age and same body-type as Corporal Kowalski. When he had restored the bar to the stand, he observed his surroundings with an alert and humorous gaze. ’Two other hardgainers.’, I thought for myself, and felt sympathy for them. I had finished my scheduled exercise for the day, and was on my way to the showers with László and Green, when we heard shouts from the calf raise machine in the corner. ’Who the hell brought the small fry to this project? How do you think you could meet the Space Squid in battle, or be useful subjects for these tests? Midgets!’ It was Corporal De Vries, one of the Dutchmen, who stood leaning over Kowalski and Soares. Kowalski answered less noisily, and I couldn’t hear what was said. De Vries gripped Kowalski’s t-shirt and lifted him up in the air, saying things I couldn’t hear from this distance. László was already on his way to the corner, followed by Taylor. I couldn’t hear what was said, but Taylor gripped De Vries by the shoulder. De Vries put Kowalski down, and László said something heatedly to De Vries, of which I could only hear: ’My gym. My rules.’ When Kowalski and Soares left with Taylor and László, De Vries gave them the finger behind their backs with an angry expression on his face. *** When I arrived to the Lab after lunch, Smith and Gruber were discussing their fields of research, respectively. ’Is the breakthrough of your’s recent, Professor Gruber? I’m not sure that I have heard anything about it before.’ ’The first breakthrough was with mice in 2014. We cured them from depression, by stimulating their hippocampus and reward centre simultaneously. By developing the neuro-helmet a few years later, it became possible to stimulate various parts of the brain without any cranial surgery.’ ’But what will happen now, when the same technology is applied militarily?’ ’I have scanned the brain-wave patterns of a great number of expert soldiers, and brought them together in a standardised high achieving pattern. In layman’s terms, you could say that I will implant memories or habits into the specimens, by using recordings, as it were, from other individuals.’ ’Are there any dangers to it, Professor Gruber?’ ’Not any I am aware of. Nowadays we even have equipment to translate mildly hypnotic verbal suggestions into brain wave patterns, by the help of an AI, and it has worked very well to treat insomnia and stress disorders in individual civilians. A military application is something new, and will probably need some milder adaptions and adjustments before working optimally.’ ’So it is the first time you apply it for a military purpose?’ ’Yes, and it is the first time I try to use it in this scale. How does your own part of The Program work, Dr. Smith?’ ’Initially, we had to program every detail of the Emmeffs from scratch, and in the process we blew up a lot of fruit flies and some mice, I’m afraid.’ ’Emmeffs?’ ’Oh, sorry for that. Morphogenetic Fields. It takes so long to say, so, within the team, we call them Emmeffs. After a while the mice were lucky and survived. Anyhow, later on, the computer engineering department assisted us in simplifying the programming of the fields. We had a grotesquely large prototype programming device, which determined how a standard mouse should look. We put a poor little fellow in the Chamber – he suffered from muscle dystrophy – and, voilá! – he was cured. And he didn’t explode. Later on, the engineers were able to slim down the size of the Programmer – which was a great relief, since the Black Matter Cyclotron was space consuming as it was, without the Programmer competing for space. From then on, the experiments behaved a little more – eh – standardised, I would say. One of my colleagues performed a series of experiments on a dystrophic hamster, and later turned it into a birthday present to her nephew, who called it ’Hulk Hamster’. As you see on this display, we have a sketch of a man here…’ He pressed a button. A drawing of an average man, sketched in blue lines against the black background, glow on the screen. The drawing was anatomical, and each muscle was marked in fine detail. With another button Smith could display the inner layers of those muscles who consisted of several layers. ’which is the starting point of The Process, and then…’ He pressed a third button. Another line drawing lit up on the screen – this one in green lines. It was only slightly larger than the blue drawing, and looked like it was projected outside and around the first man, enclosing him. ’…this one, which is the desired goal. It is possible to grow the green chart proportionally…’ He pressed another key, and the green man became taller and wider, but retained his average physique. ’… but it is also possible to click on each muscle, and redesign the way he looks.’ Smith moved the cursor, clicked on a number of individual muscles, and clicked some boxes. ’Ooops. This combination of changes would make him deformed. It is important to maintain symmetry and functionality. We have some templates approved and authorised by the Command. Let’s see…’ Smith’s fingers danced at the keyboard, and a green anatomical chart popped up on the screen. The depicted man was huge and looked dangerous. If anyone looked like that, he would probably have good chances to win a weight-lifting competition, or perhaps bodybuilding. Smith shut the machine down. ’I would prefer if we begin with the Neuro-Reprogramming Phase. If he becomes physically enhanced but without self-control, we could have a situation here. We don’t want to endanger The Project, would we?’, Gruber suggested. ’Who’s the first one in the pipeline?’ It happened to be Corporal Soares. The fit little Portuguese was briefed about the process, and told that his physical conversion wouldn’t occur, until we were sure the Neuro-Reprogramming worked correctly. He left his boots, cargo trousers and T-shirt on a bench, and took somewhat shyly off his socks and pants. On the top of the pile he put a silver pendant in a heavy chain. I noticed that the pendant depicted St. Michael the Archangel. Gruber put the neuro-helmet on his head and the breathing mask over his nose and mouth. ’Good luck! And just relax!’, László said, when Soares stepped into the sluice, and reached the cylindric chamber, built of glass and steel. ’Synthetic amniotic fluid activated’, Lamarck said, while the light blue liquid began to fill Chamber 1. ’Body temperature 37,4 Centigrades’, Green reported from the body scanner. I still feel worried and disappointed about what happened the following hour. A few minutes after Gruber had activated the Neuro-Reprogrammer, Soares screamed in agony and fear. His pulse and body temperature were abnormally high, and we had to abort the process. When Chamber 1 had become sufficiently emptied of liquid, László and Nurse Dubois entered the sluice and carried the unconscious Soares out of the Chamber, and put him on a paper-covered medical bunk, before moving him to a moveable hospital bed. László and I were shaken, but luckily Green kept his mind cold, and gave Soares a physical exam. He consulted with Gruber, but the diagnosis was outside my own field of expertise. Somehow, the reprogramming had caused Soares a comatose state, but his life wasn’t endangered. Green connected him to IV-nutrition, and Dubois wheeled the hospital bed away to Infirmary. The following day came. Morning was scheduled for interviews and medical tests as usual, but I felt worried over the afternoon experiment. Would that go wrong as well? This time it was one of the Swedes, Corporal Johansson, who sat waiting in the waiting room. Johansson was somewhat over medium height and robustly built, although not conspicuously so. His golden hair was cropped, his nose slightly upturned and his eyes sky blue. ’We will not lie to you: The Program is still in a prototype phase, and may be dangerous, although not lethal. It would be unethical to keep this information away from you.’, Green said. A worried expression came and went in Johansson’s eyes, but he answered: ’Give it a try. I was aware that the Project was experimental when I agreed to go here. Do your best. It is my duty to give you a chance to develop The Program, isn’t it?’ He left his clothes on the bench. The neuro-helmet, the IV and the breathing mask were placed where they should be, and the experiment began. The Preparation Phase for reprogramming took almost forty-five minutes. Tranquillising and analgesic formulas devised by Gospodinov and Lamarck circulated in Johansson’s blood vessels, and Gruber had modified some settings in the Neuro-Reprogrammer. This time we would try to change both the mind and the body of the test subject. ’Do you hear me, Corporal Johansson?’, Green asked into a microphone. ’Mmmm, yes… So sleepy…’, came the answer from the microphone in Johansson’s breathing mask. ’Do you feel okay?’ ’Oh, yes. Go ahead.’ ’Initiating Neuro-Reprogramming.’, Gruber reported from his corner. A low humming sound was heard in the Lab. ’Pulse increasing’, Green reported from the body scanner. We could hear how Johansson’s breathing becoming faster. ’No. No, no, no. NO!’, he shouted into the microphone. I felt uneasy. ’No, it… no, um. Umngh.’, the protests subsided and changed gradually into moaning or grunting sounds, until a sudden change in mood seemed to have occurred: ’Yes. YES! I will comply! All orders will be executed! Becoming integrated into The Program!’ ’Pulse decreasing’, Green reported. The breathing was still faster than normal. Now and then Johansson mumbled. ’Brain activity as expected’, Gruber said. Fifteen minutes later, it seemed that the neuro-reprogramming had went well this time. ’Initiating Physical Reprogramming’, Lamarck reported. ’Endocrinal stimuli working’, Gospodinov answered. ’Viral activity increasing. Nano saturation increasing’, Lamarck echoed. ’Twenty millisheldrake, and increasing.’, Smith reported from his screen. ’Hypertrophic Radiation 110% and increasing’, I answered from the screen in my part of the Lab. The hypertrophic radiation (although invisible when projected in gas, vacuum and most liquids) became visible when it was projected into the specially devised synthetic amniotic fluid together with the Morphogenetic Fields. Slowly we increased the stimuli. After a while it was obvious for the naked eye that Johansson had become visibly more muscular, but suddenly something went wrong: ’No! This is not my body! Where has my body gone? I can’t move my legs! I can’t feel my arms!’ The frightened screams increased, then suddenly fell silent. Gruber reported that the specimen had become comatose. The events from yesterday repeated themselves, and the setbacks took their toll in most of us. Their upbringing helped Smith and Lamarck to keep up a polite and neutral facade, but unlike the unperturbed Gruber, they seemed anyhow to feel concern for Soares and Johansson. The rest of us were unable to hide our feelings of worry, concern and guilt. I had honestly believed that the safety level of The Program’s each component was higher than this. What had we done to these young men? The next morning, it was impossible to keep what had happened a secret. Major Murphy told the recruits during breakfast that Soares and Johansson were unconscious in Infirmary. Someone called Gruber ’Doctor Frankenstein’, and someone threw a paper cup in the back of Smith’s head. László was avoided by his training buddies at the gym. Corporal Kowalski stared accusingly on me without a word. The mood at the Facility deteriorated. The ginger haired Lieutenant Jones complained over how László had planned the meals: ’Yuh’ll be kidding me! No bloody jipper ter the veggies?’ We cancelled any scheduled afternoon experiments, and went through all readings and notes again and again.Gruber asked all of us in the scientific team to record our brainwave patterns, in the presumption that we all had ’healthy brainwave patterns’, whatever that meant. *** I went to bed early, but couldn’t sleep, since Lamarck and Gospodinov were drinking wine in the neighbouring room. I drifted into the Lab again. It must have been after midnight, but Gruber worked late. I heard him talk into a microphone in a way which reminded me of relaxation sound files a friend of mine had used: ’You will be in perfect control of your body. You will be in perfect control of the abilities you have achieved by integrating into The Program, regardless of how much your physical form changes. You feel calm and relaxed. Your physical performance will be enhanced. It feels good to enhance your physical performance. You are in perfect control. You are perfectly present in your body. Everything will be fine. You will obey The Program. You will integrate everyone attuneable into The Program. You will obey the direction to protect the military unit and all civilians. You will do everything necessary to optimise and maximise the performance of yourself and of The Program. No-one will be permitted to abolish or limit the aim of The Program. You will attune perfectly. You will become enhanced. You will become augmented according to plan.’ Gruber pressed a button. A metallic voice answered: Vocal instruction translation into brainwaives initiated executed and accomplished The recording translated from speech into a brainwave pattern visible at one of the screens. Gruber pressed some other keys on the keyboard. A pattern labeled ’Smith’ flashed on the screen and was mixed with the first pattern. A pattern labeled ’László’ was glimpsed for a moment, until Gruber mixed it with the other two. I left the Lab, since I wanted to be alone. Somehow, I drifted into the Infirmary. It was Nurse Dubois who served at nightshift. A single lamp was lit close to Soares’ bed, in the light of which a silver pendant glinted on the bedside table. A plastic bag with nutrition hang from a stand, connected to Soares’ IV with a thin plastic tube. He wasn’t alone. Kowalski sat on a chair, looking sadly on Soares. I felt my bad conscience return, and I left the Infirmary silently. Since I was an Agnostic and a non-practicing member of Church of NorwayI hadn’t felt any reason to peek into the Meditation Room before, but I did it now. First, it lay in complete darkness, but a dim point, turning out to be a LED, guided me to the graded switch. At 50%, the grey ovoid concrete room rested in a soft and calming illumination. The floor consisted of polished stone. No images were to be seen. No chairs, but concrete benches fixed to the wall and surrounding a moderately large open space. Right. Le Corbusier meets IKEA. Ceiling-high cabinets were folded into the wall at some places, alternating with the grey concrete. In one part of the room, close to the entrance, the cabinet doors were made in dark oak, but gave place to several shades of gradually lighter brown woods in the middle, and with fir panels at the opposite end. ’Obvious committee work’, I thought. ’The British and the Greek had probably voted for oak, and the Norwegians and Swedes voted for fir. But the architect solved the problem tastefully. Probably someone from France or Switzerland.’ I continued to explore the room. In one cabinet I found bookshelves: The Christian Bible in thirty languages. Three books with the title ’Chumash’, which turned out to be the Hebrew Bible with translations into English, German and French. Six translations of the Koran in several languages. A highly decorated book in Greek, which I couldn’t read, and two similar ones in two eastern European languages I couldn’t identify. A German book called ’Gotteslob’. A number of booklets with latin text and several vernaculars in parallel columns. A handful of small A6-booklets in bright colours announcing: A Common Eucharist and Evening Prayer: As agreed upon by the member churches of the Porvoo Communion 2019. A handful of similar booklets in duller – or perhaps more serious – colours with the title: Gottesdienst in Kriegszeiten. Ein Leuenberger Agenda für EKD, SEK, FEPS und GEKE 2021. Bhagavadgita in English, German and French. A slightly damp-damaged booklet with the title Sandhya Vandanam. Samyutta Nikaya – what on earth is that? Oh – Buddhism in English translation. The Lotus sutra. Platform sutra. Guru Granth Sahib – hmm… Oh – Sikhism! Dawkins: The God delusion with a sticker: ’Donated by the National Secular Society’. Russell: Wisdom of the West. Oh, there seem to be something for everyone here! Someone has been thinking. We didn’t have any permanently stationed chaplain at the Research Facility, since the stay was – hopefully – expected to be short, but preparations had been made to facilitate devotions according to several religious beliefs or non-beliefs. I riffled absentmindedly through the pages of Bhagvadgita. I wasn’t Hindu, and only knew it by name: ’Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ Not uplifting, but hadn’t I heard these words before? Read somewhere… No. I couldn’t remember. Another cabinet contained a number of prayer shawls, two types of chalices for Eucharist, and a number of foldable carpets. As a matter of fact, a few of the uppermost carpets were folded slightly more carelessly than the lower ones, so probably they had been used more recently. A timer. A Byzantine icon of Christ folded in protective velvet, and a copy of Our Lady of Czestochowa, similarly contained. An electric fake candle. A lighter. Batteries. A crock filled with sand. A cylindric aluminium box marked ’Spaghetti’. Spaghetti? I opened the box, and a scent of sweet wood of some sort greeted my nose: It contained incense sticks, which reminded me of the habits of a former girlfriend. Most of the space in that cabinet was, however, consumed by small foldable meditation benches in different sizes. When I observed the polished stone floor, I became aware of a very subdued mosaïque, which informed the directions of East, Mecca, and North. Why North? I was puzzled. Both the southern wall and the northern were equipped with handles in waist height, which made me curious, but it turned out to be two foldable altars. Why two? Whatever belief anyone had – or not – the room was soothing, at least when the cabinets were closed and the altars folded back to the walls. I sat there in the stillness for more than twenty minutes, until I returned to my bed. *** It was afternoon again. Lamarck and Gospodinov had been unusually silent and gloomy in the morning, and didn’t melt until lunch, when they had consumed unusually large amounts of mineral water and buttered bread. Smith and Green absent-mindedly looked through their notes again, and László emitted whiffs of Lynx. ’Nice Einstein hair-do, Gospodinov!’, was the first words, when Lieutenant Jones entered the Lab. Jones, it had come out during the interview almost a week earlier, had a long time background in SAS, and was divorced. During childhood he had moved around frequently with his divorced mother between several places in the north: Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool, Wigan, Bradford, Newcastle… – a litany of place names. His head was covered in a red haired buzzcut, and his ears were more protruding than in an average person. He was of pink composure, and built like a human version of a pitbull terrier. His military tattoos made him look perilous, but towards the scientific team he behaved protectively and irreverently in a humorous and good-natured way. It seemed that László and Jones had bonded well at the Gym already, and that helped to make Jones cooperative, despite of the sour mood in the Mess Hall. ’Ah dinna thought tha’ the avvy would come so suuhn. After wha’ ’appened ter Soares and Johansson, we all feel a li’l bi’ worried abuht the effects, out there. Wharryl ’appen ter us inside the Magic Boxes?’ Smith and Green seemed to understand Jones’ argot well enough to answer him, but for me, who was only familiar with schoolbook English and TV-programmes from BBC sent by Norwegian broadcasters, Jones was incomprehensible. The elderly scientists also seemed to be confused by Jones’ version of English. Smith explained: ’The Program is still in a prototype stage, but we believe that we may have fixed the bug now. If you two react well, and we have reasons to believe you will, the readings from your transformations will probably help us wake Soares and Johansson from their unconscious states.’ Corporal Bjarnarsson had stood silent near the doorway from the waiting room, looming. He was a twenty-seven year old giant of a man, with a past in strongman-contests. ’Ah. Corporal Bjarnarsson! For you the Procedure will probably cause less strain. The change will be lesser in extent, since you are in such a good shape already.’ For a millisecond Jones eyed Bjarnarsson somewhat enviously, but then changed back to his usual irreverent humorous chattiness. László took their measures, as befitted their coach. Curious, I peeked over László’s shoulder in order to see the Pad connected to The Program: Ltn. Jones: Weight: 95 kilogrammes Height: 186 centimetres Chest: 115 centimetres Waist: 91 centimetres Arm: 40 centimetres Thighs: 66 centimetres Cpl. Bjarnarsson: Weight: 156 kilogrammes Height: 199 centimetres Chest: 160 centimetres Waist: 104 centimetres Arm: 60 centimetres Thighs: [AWAITING DATA] ’When Ah was rather nuw in the Service, abuht fifteen years ago, or thereabuht, me an’ me mates went ter cinema an’ watched th’film ”Captain America”. ’s like being in the middle uvv something similar ’ere, innit. Please duhnt knock me uuht like yuh did ter Corporal Soares an’ Corporal Johansson.’ Jones continued to talk while the IV, the neuro-helmet and the mask were placed on him and Bjarnarsson. Bjarnarsson was reticently silent. Then they moved into the sluices and the Chambers. ’Tranquillisers and analgesics distributed.’, said Gospodinov, looking at a monitor governing the IV. ’Forty millisheldrake, and increasing.’, Smith reported from his screen. ’Hypertrophic Radiation 125%, and increasing’, I reported. ’Endorphins activated. Myostatine blockers activated. Testosterone production rising. Oestrogen moderated. Adrenalin moderated. Kortisol moderated. Somatropin level rising.’, Gospodinov said. ’Viro-treatment active. Saturation level of nano-particles increasing’, Lamarck echoed. Something looking like ghostly flames in a strange golden hue flared and filled the entire cylinders, surrounding Bjarnarsson and Jones. Something looking like electric bolts (although we knew they didn’t have anything to do with electrons) hit the defenceless bodies of the two test subjects. Gruber attended their Neuro-Reprogramming. It went well this time, but it was too soon to triumph and feel relief. Soon both bellowed lustfully their acceptance of, and obedience to, The Program, and the Competence Programming was encoded into their brains. Meanwhile, the analgesics, the endocrine treatment and the DNA-altering formulas circulated in their bodies, preparing the way for the upcoming Physical Reprogramming Phase. They fell into oblivion for a while, when their bone tissue adapted with an ugly scraping sound. They regained consciousness. Their breathing became heavier. They clenched their fists. Their shoulders and legs tensed. Their manhoods awakened. An eerie pulse of force caused their muscles to tense and relax, tense and relax… A change occurred in Bjarnarsson. The already very huge man didn’t become taller, but his body composition went from big-bellied to what my student-day gym-buddies would have called ’ripped’. Any unnecessary body fat was burned away by the altered metabolism induced by The Program, and Bjarnarsson’s already well-developed muscled swelled. The changes of Jones were much more tremendous. When he entered the Chamber, he was padded of tight but undefined muscles like an overstuffed Chesterfield, but now his brawn was growing, and when body fat burned away, his muscles became visible like protruding spheres and bicones of terrifying strength. ’Uh, uh! Ah! Oh, it’s so fuckin’ unbelievable! It’s so friggin’ brilliant, innit! Duh yuh hear me ouht there? … Oh yes! Really ace! All hard flesh… meatier… Am beefing up! … the feeling! It’s… oh, OH! Am connected to this amazing power surge, nnnn, mmmm, aah! Charging me! Powerload! Powercharge! POWERHOUSE! Um! Nnng! Ah! Yes, yes! Yes! Um! Nnngh, nnngh, AH!’ We lost verbal communication from Jones, since his words devolved into incomprehensible excited moans and grunts. His body was not easy to see by now, since the golden shimmer from the rays enfolded him, but, from what could be visibly observed and from the growing blue digital chart of his body, his physique quickly adapted to the extreme ideal of the green digital chart of the Field. In the other Chamber, Bjarnarsson emitted similar noises as Jones. A pulsating pump raged in every muscle of Jones’, but, unlike pump at the gym, this actually increased his muscle tissue here and now. His back muscles contracted, relaxed, hardened and swelled. Incredible back muscles protruded increasingly, forming a map of valleys and ridges. His lats broadened. His glutes formed into globes, and then globes indented, forming ’C:s’ patterned like spruces. His shoulders became boulders. His neck filled out into steel wires plaited into cords, forming an uncrushable bull neck. His calves became insane rugby balls of rock, defined by a valley into twin ridges. Both the front and the back of his thighs swelled into jaw-dropping vein-ridden monuments of masculine might. Deeply defined abs formed an unconquerable brick-wall of warm flesh, and his chest was composed of two expanding shields of engorged bulbous brawn, radiating of vigour. Under the influence of the treatment his vein-patterned triceps, biceps and forearms, fortified by hypertrophic power, were ever hardening, bulging and toughening. When The Program reached its culmination both test subjects shouted in hypertrophic bliss, bellowed in anabolic ecstasy, and roared in testosterone-fuelled power-craze. Green noticed that both specimens ejaculated. He looked at Gospodinov, who answered: ’Probably a side effect of the extremely heightened testosterone-production. The nurses have to clean the Chambers before next experiment.’ Nurse Fischer looked up from his notes with a disgusted expression. For a few seconds both test subjects passed out, and for a while we were all very worried that our failures would repeat, but Jones and Bjarnarsson soon regained consciousness, while the fluid receded. As soon as possible, László and Nurse Fischer opened the sluice doors and helped the subjects out. They actually could walk by themselves, but seemed elated and dizzy-headed. While they used their towels, we could notice that they transpired a lot of sweat. Worried, Smith asked: ’How do you feel?’ ’Ah feel really boss, nuw. Gobsmacked, really. Yuh duhn’t have ter worry abuht me, Doc. Am really made up. Feeling buff as hell. Wha’ stonking arms!’, and, eyeing his new complection he added: ’An’ its the first time Ah got a real bronzee, mate. At vacation in Ibiza and Lanzarote, Ah uhnly got pink, scolded and peeling. Dis’s unusual. But Ah can’t stan’ ’ere starkers all day. Yuh said something abuht a nuw sorta uniform?’ Calmly, Bjarnarsson said something about feeling fine. Green took measures of Bjarnarsson, while Smith took the measures of Jones,in order to assure that the data on the screen were correct: ’Oh by Jove!’ Ltn. Jones: Weight: 180 kilogrammes Height: 200 centimetres Chest: 188 centimetres Waist: 97 centimetres Arm: 76 centimetres Thighs: 96 centimetres While László was ransacking the Inventory for the new prototype uniform, Smith explained: ’The prototype uniform was engineered for several reasons. Since a traditional uniform would probably risk to either fray or to be a chunky inconvenience in action, something adaptable and stretchable was needed. Since the PCETOs seemingly use IR-perception as their primary sense, it was important to use a fabric which conducts excessive body heat in an unnoticeable way, while still warm enough. A new way of arranging carbon atoms has been demonstrated to hold the capacity to protect from projectiles and edged weapons. Since some of your future operations probably will take place in space, the uniform had to be easily used in combination with conventional space suits and the new prototype space armour. The same material is actually used in the tarpaulins at the Outer Perimeter, in order to camouflage the wood fires.’ László returned from the Inventory with a number of items of clothing. I hadn’t seen the new uniform myself, so I was as astonished as the recruits themselves. The stuff was black and glossy, with no hints of spun threads. Most of all it had a sort of leathery surface, but it had pliable qualities, and formed after the wearer. ’Dis pura kecks is tuh tight. Du yuh ’ave any larger pair uvvem? A’ve no’ any sparrer legs, anymore. Lewk at these ’amstrings an’ calves!’ László had a broad grin on his face, and handed over a larger pair of uniform trousers. It turned out that size 11 boots were too small, and we all waited while Jones tied the bootlaces of his size 12 army boots. When Jones and Bjarnarsson had dressed, we inspected the results. The uniforms looked painted on them, but, regardless of this, there seemed to be no risk of fraying or rips at the seams. The black, glossy and leathery material cling in a snug-fitting way to their enormous shoulders and pecs, saliently enhancing the presence of the shoulder straps with insignia and the breast pockets – the short sleeves leaving the forearms bare. The shirt buttons were designed to be non-obstructive and easy to button. The trousers were snug around the calves, but were tailored like cargo-trousers around the thighs, in order to facilitate the typically useful pockets. The trousers were reinforced over the groin, in a way bringing anti-riot equipment to mind. The belt buckle was adorned with the heraldic crest of this prototype Company. There was something vaguely intimidating to the rather high bootlegs, but, despite being advanced in ways which went over my head, the boots looked like typical military boots designed for practical usefulness rather than looks. They were smoothly polished, but with the new material the entire uniforms had the look of being polished by military standard shoe polish. The results were stunning. The uniforms didn’t hide their muscular physiques, but revealed and highlighted them. It felt somewhat unsettling to be in the presence of the uniformed and huge recruits. ’Yuh ’aven’t given ed a thought to take a trip into the Magic Boxes yerself, Doc? It luuk like yuh could ’ave use fer ed, eh? An’ yuh, Coach? Yuh would certainly like ed. Mooch be’er than slapping the monkey.’ Smith looked away with an embarrassed expression. His ears and cheeks were purple. Green interrupted: ’You will need some rest in the Infirmary. Later tonight or early tomorrow we will go to the gym and measure how your performance has increased.’ When Jones and Bjarnarsson had left for observation in Infirmary, Smith commented our conversation with Jones: ’There is something you mainland Europeans don’t understand: That UK is a kingdom divided by a common language.’ Chapter Two is found here: https://muscle-growth.org/topic/6609-project-defender-–-chapter-two/
I haven't posted any story before. The purpose of this teaser is twofold. It will give readers a vague hint of the setting, and I will become familiar with how this forum handles text layout-wise. Please tell me if something looks funny on your computers. There are so many things that may go wrong with computers and internet. In another thread, the text I posted was perceived as white letters on white background for some readers. Thatwas not intentionally, and I hope to avoid such problems. DISCLAIMER The teaser doesn't contain anything worth warning for, with the possible exception of slightly derogative designations of citizens of the USA and the Russian Federation, but some of the chapters of the finished story will. Do not read this if you find any of the aforementioned things offensive. Project Defender – The Teaser Janssens felt an icy chill in his chest. Earth was under attack. Communication with the Yankees, the Russkies and Beijing was lost, the satellites down and the trans-atlantic cable broken. Europe was on its own now, and the Space Squids annihilated city after city. He knew his duty. He had been hand-picked by Forces Spéciales and sent to the International Pan-European Research Facility B as a test subject. But to know one's duty and to feel relaxed were two different things. The results of The Program on some of his brothers-in-arms were as remarkable as the results on some were disastrous, and The Program was still on a prototype stage. Even if Doc, Viking Guy, Boffin and Coach did their best, none of them, nor he himself, could know for sure what would happen to him in the cylindric Chamber 1. Do you accept The Program? He hadn't been able to imagine how the Neuro-Reprogramming would feel. First, he reacted in fear. Do you accept The Program? No! No, no, no! It pressed its influence against his mind, trying to control him. You will accept The Program No! The fear of losing himself, the fear of becoming something else, something machine-like, something... You will accept The Program You will accept The Program You will ... something monstrous, something without control, something... accept The Program You will accept The Program You will accept The Program ... something totally amazing, something totally obedient, something totally martial... You will accept The Program You will accept SIR, YES SIR! And when the Phase of Neuro-Reprogramming was accomplished, the Phase of Physical Reprogramming was initiated. The inividual unit formerly known as 'Janssens' would never be entirely the same as before, but humankind would have another Defender. Chapter one will be found here: https://muscle-growth.org/topic/5059-project-defender-–-chapter-one/
Check out Part 1 if you need a refresher on the story: http://muscle-growth.org/topic/2496-the-facility/ Two years had passed since that day back in the city. Both of you managed to get out and found refuge in a neighboring community away from the chaos that ensued from that crazy day. Remarkably though the force that consumed the city only managed to affect a small amount of men from outside its borders and never made it to this town they made it to. Even more amazing is the fact that both you and Howard returned to your normal sizes just a few hours after entering this new community. You were both found and taken to a place that was being run by a doctor by the name of Ross Bloodstone. He was intrigued by both of your circumstances and started running very elaborate tests on both of you. After determining that you and Howard were both born with genetic gifts, the doctor decided to organize a team to go investigate the building you spoke to him about and find out exactly how this whole thing started. He recruited you to go back and search to where this force was being housed inside the facility where you and Howard both originally changed. The search team was to wear protective gear that was implanted with an oxygen tank so they could breathe clean air and not worry about some freak accident from happening. You lobbied hard to get Howard put onto the search team, but Dr. Bloodstone decided against it and sent him to go work with a research company to help develop a new type of protein supplement. The doctor had occasionally spoken to you about people he had worked with in the past that would make you think that perhaps this experimental facility was somehow put together as part of one of his studies. You decided to keep it to yourself so he wouldn’t get any indications that you might question his motives. After some last minute planning, you got the search team together and shuffled them into an armored van that was meant for tough missions like this one. The drive back to the city was about three hours away from this community. The men were also told to eat something before they left to avoid the possibility of having to expose themselves to the air. The team was made up of five guys, all of different sizes and all had different levels of expertise. The one that was assigned to stay with you at all times was Brisco, a stunningly handsome former marine with a thick powerful build. From day one at the safehouse you had resided in, this man helped you cope with the after effects of the reversion process and stayed close when your lover was not available. Howard never truly understood why this man latched on to you so quickly so he tried to stay close to you to make sure that nothing unusual would happen. It is perhaps the main reason why he was assigned to another location to avoid getting into the middle of whatever Brisco’s assignment was. The other three vary in size from the lanky type with the technological skills, Marshall, to one with medical expertise, Evers, and the other one was a monstrously huge brute with the strength to fend off whoever might have come along. His name was Hery, a South American former superheavyweight bodybuilder that at one time was going to compete for the Olympia competition before all hell broke loose in his homeland. Once you arrived back inside the city, you were shocked to see that there was a substantial amount of dead men lying everywhere. It seemed really strange that not a single man survived from this catastrophe, but that there must have been a reason for this to occur as well. The team managed to find the location of the facility and parked the van directly in front of where both you and Howard emerged from just a couple of years before. You started to get out of the vehicle until Brisco ordered you to stay put while he went inside to search. The rest of the team followed closely behind him. After they made their way inside the huge opening in the facility wall, you managed to sneak out the driver’s side door and peeked in before stepping inside. The darkness inside the testing area reminded you of what had transpired just a few years before. Nothing had changed except for several portions of the ceiling which were falling down from the lack of maintenance. You got a flashlight out from your suit pocket and looked over and noticed that Marshall was already inside the control room checking out the machinery that still remained slightly intact despite the carnage that occurred from that crazy day. Both Evers and Hery had apparently gone somewhere else inside the facility since they were nowhere to be seen. You managed to find your way over to start discussing what may or may not have led to the development of this powerful force. You were trying to formulate in your mind of whether or not he was just doing things for Dr. Bloodstone or if he really was interested in figuring out how this may have gotten started on his own free will. You eventually decided to let Marshall continue his examination of the machinery and went searching throughout other sections of the building. You could hear both Brisco and Hery discussing something in the gym area not far from the main entrance of the building as you entered the long corridor that led to the front part of the facility. It seemed as if Hery was more interested in finding out if the force was still activated in the air than ever protecting the team from anything they may have encountered. The two men argued for several minutes before Brisco finally said that he wasn’t going to be part of whatever decision Hery was going to make. He even threatened to kill him right there if he decided to take his helmet off. Before they said anything else, you quickly jumped in between them to resolve whatever conflict was going to transpire next. Brisco told you to get out the way, but you refused since you figured he wouldn’t hurt you considering how he has been with you over the last several months. The huge bodybuilder made a few more taunts before unlatching his helmet and threatened to pull it off. You pleaded with him to take a few minutes to think about what he was going to do, but it didn’t work as he immediately pulls his helmet off. He took several deep breaths inhaling the air and grunted in his low South American voice. Within seconds, both you and Brisco could hear his body reacting. His suit was inflating to its limits as his muscles were expanding at an alarming rate. The marine pushed you out of the way and started shooting at Hery numerous times hitting the growing behemoth in his chest and legs. The blood from his wounds was slowly pooling out the holes in his suit before his bloated muscles started tearing their way out of the fabric and pushed the bullets out and onto the floor. He was yelling quite loudly at Brisco as he continued to swell inside up the suit as the fabric quickly gave way to the mass that continued to grow on top of the immense muscle he had already on his bulging torso. You got back up and attempted to get the marine away from Hery, but he wouldn’t budge as he tried shooting the swelling behemoth again. The bullets barely pierced his olive flesh as the expanding muscle layers pushed them right back out. At this point, the South American’s suit completely fell to the ground. He continued to expand as he grew even taller and was about to reach the ceiling above him. You decided to high tail it out the back of the gym area and into the locker area. You peered around the corner to listen from the locker room entrance and could hear Hery’s immensely deep voice rumbling against the walls as Brisco yelled in fright. The ceiling was heard crumbling as the facility shook several times forcing you to brace yourself against the wall you were standing beside. You decided to find another way out of the locker room in case the giant decided to come looking for you. This was a part of the facility that you were not familiar with since you were immediately sent back into the test area when you originally arrived there. Perhaps there was a door in the back where you could find a way out. After a couple of minutes of searching, you did find a door and opened it. You quickly rushed inside and closed it. When you were trying to turn around, you were immediately met by Evers who attempted to try and knock you out. You avoided his blow and retaliated by punching him in the faceguard of his helmet which knocked him backwards. He started to fall over but you managed to catch him before he landed on the ground. You didn’t want his helmet to come off somehow. He tried to get back up but you ended up sitting on him to restrain him while you asked him questions about his motive and what the doctor wanted him to do at the facility. Evers refused to answer any of his questions and said that he was willing to kill himself if it was needed. You knew that you couldn’t let him off that easy by taking his helmet off so you forced him up to his feet and sat him over in a chair by a window that was located close to a door which went outside. You found some thick medical tape lying close to you and wrapped his arms up in it behind his back as well as around the bottom part of his helmet to avoid any kind of accident from possibly occurring. This room appeared to be some kind of lab area with various bottles of chemicals and gases lying everywhere. You scanned the whole area and came to the conclusion that perhaps Evers was sent back here to possibly work on getting another virus developed. You heard noises coming from behind one of the walls and went over to investigate. You could hear something powering up and quickly jumped backwards to avoid the blast that ended up coming through the wall. A huge crater appeared as Evers went flying into the wall behind him. Someone came through the crater and grabbed you by the arm before standing you up. They immediately noticed that a crack was forming on your helmet and patched it quickly before any of the air entered. As you came to your senses, you noticed that it was in fact Marshall who picked you up from the ground. He told you that they needed to get out of there to avoid being found because he realized that they were being used by the doctor and most likely other members of the search team. Still a bit groggy, you nodded in agreement as the man opened the door that led outside and felt yourself being dragged away from the facility. More sounds were heard emanating from the complex behind you as the two of you went inside a nearby building to take shelter. You collapsed into Marshall’s arms once you found a safe place inside that was secure and passed out. Need to catch up on Doctor Bloodstone?: Part 1: http://muscle-growth.org/topic/3533-introducing-the-muscle-doctor-part-1-of-2/?hl=%2Bintroducing+%2Bthe+%2Bmuscle+%2Bdoctor Part 2: http://muscle-growth.org/topic/3600-introducing-the-muscle-doctor-part-2-of-2/?hl=%2Bintroducing+%2Bthe+%2Bmuscle+%2Bdoctor