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[Note: This series will consist of ten parts]
When he woke, the sting of hundreds of tiny needles dug deep into his muscles, some down to the very marrow of his bones, the shock took Cade and mercifully put him back into a fitful but motionless sleep.
He woke again, partially, seeing the blurred images of people standing above him. The sensation of being in a movie nearly finished waking him, but Cade fell away again.
The voices in the room murmured into reality and Cade woke again, in a bed, strapped down. Like something out of a noir spy film. He almost laughed as the word ‘Manchurian’ formed in his frontal cortex. But somehow he knew that laughing would still hurt a lot, so he merely waited for his vision to clear.
“Leave,” the voice said. Cade heard the rustle of feet as others left. The door closed behind them, the sound crisp in his ears.
Cade said, “Please don’t say, ‘Ah, I see you’re awake now.’ This is already ridiculous.”
The voice laughed.
“I know where I am,” Cade said. “I want to know what you’ve done.”
“You already know that, too.”
Cade sighed. He knew he could tear his way out of the bed with ease now. Rip the restraints off and use one to turn the face of his old friend to ruination. There was no reason to disbelieve it, nor any reason to kill Luke. The risk had always been there when dealing with him. Luke Caleb was mad as a hatter below his calm, intelligent demeanor and always had been. Cade knew it had always been out in the open for any perceptive human to see, almost a warning from the doctor.
There was no one to blame but himself, and he knew that.
“I knew you would be this way when you understood. You could remove my heart without so much as breaking a sweat now.” Dr. Caleb walked closer. “You ingrate. Gifted now beyond reason and yet fuming internally about those gifts, knowing you walked into it all, so you won’t kill me despite desiring to do so with the utmost lust.”
Again Cade sighed. And then he noticed his old friend. The dark mane was replaced by close-cut silver hair. His eyes told the story as being a long one. Then Cade remembered why he had awakened and took a look at himself. The body was synthetic. Strong and agile enough to do very real and permanent damage to any adversary. It wasn’t his.
“What did you do with…”
“Of course, the ‘real you’, as you were about to say, is stored in the most advanced state possible. To the particle level, your body is preserved. I know what you’re about to say.”
Cade finally ripped both hands out of the restraints, popped the one on his chest by twisting his ribcage, and pulled his legs free.
“Why, Luke? That’s rhetorical. If you answer me, I’ll likely kill you.”
Dr. Caleb said nothing.
Cade got out of the bed and looked down. “You know,” he said, “I do appreciate this. The jeans, tee shirt, socks and shoes. Every time I saw this shit in a movie, the poor fool was naked. Superpowered, sure, but naked. It’s just damn disconcerting. I guess none of the movie type villains ever had the nightmare where they woke up in school naked.”
“I think it was more likely the one-dimensional creatures had that dream every day, brother.”
Cade almost whirled on his old friend for having the nerve to use the term. But again, Luke was right, always right: he knew that already, too.
“Why is it not enough that I have spent countless millions on keeping your damnably precious ‘soul’ intact, Cade?”
“It is enough,” Cade replied. “That’s why you’re not in two pieces.”
“All right, fair enough. I did this because we need it right now. There’s no other way to deal with what’s coming.”
An alarm began to sound in the facility. Cade looked around the room at the orange lights, then over at Dr. Caleb.
“I guess you’re about to meet ‘what’s coming.'”
Cade just shook his head. “What happened after I died, Luke? How long have I been gone?”
Dr. Caleb pressed a button and the sink faded away and a door opened.
“If I wasn’t a goddamn cyborg myself, there’s no way I’d believe the fact that this entire facility is mostly a quantum-based laser of some sort that’s building some kind of holographic construct on the fly.”
“Close,” Dr. Caleb said. “Primitive but close.”
Cade grabbed Dr. Caleb and they took off running through the door and down the hallway it had opened into. “How long, Luke?”
“Seventeen years, three months, five days, and six hours.”
“Oh, I hate you,” Cade said.
A door appeared a hundred or so feet ahead of them, and Cade simply kicked it open, knowing kicking a holographic image was mostly pointless. But he wanted to let loose a tad of the rage seething inside of him.
Forty soldiers stood before him, one man at the head of them like some kind of tale from Arabic lore. Forty theives. The thought popped into Cade’s mind without his approval.
He turned them all into sleeping babies within less than a minute. Dr. Caleb stood behind him when it was over, clapping and grinning like some kind of fanboy. Again
Cade found himself wanting to kill the man.
“How the hell can you not be loving this,” Dr. Caleb asked, arms spread wide.
Cade merely started walking.