Jack’s eyes begin to open slowly with nothing but the blurry image of 5:59 AM staring back at him from the alarm clock. This was how he woke up every morning, with just one minute before his alarm is due to go off, and he hated it. For once he just wanted to wake up differently, like with the day’s top hits blaring in his ear. As if on cue, his clock jumps to life with the blessed sound of Toto’s “Hold the Line” playing at a volume just above a whisper.
“Love may not always be on time, but today I sure have to be,” he grumbles to himself while finding the will to get out of bed and stretch. He cranks up the volume and rushes to the bathroom to complete the morning ritual.
He can already smell the coffee brewing, even before he has made it out of his bedroom. Oh, how he loved military technology and the fact that it was somehow always 20 years ahead of the public. To him, automatic brewing coffee was pretty much a basic human right at this point. Having coffee ready for you as you’re rushing out the door is a godsend. He must be finishing up early today, because usually the coffee isn’t ready until he is heading out the door. He didn’t mind, of course. It gave him some time to sit, get caffeinated, and plan out the day in his head. It was a pretty special day, after all. He finally decided to get that experimental injection that his handler/mentor, Ishmael, at the Agency would not stop droning on about. Yeah, it is supposed to make him the most badass secret agent in the world. But, if it at the very least shuts Ishmael up about the thing, he is on board all the same.
He walked out the door, listening to the morning mixture of birds chirping and horns honking in the distance, and began sluggishly making his way toward the base hospital. The Army grunts were already out and about, just like any other morning. Some running, some marching, all looking miserable, just like any other morning. To Jack, however, nothing about today was like any other morning, besides how he woke up. It seemed as though he was finally breaking out of that mundane routine. Heck, maybe he would even sleep until his alarm woke him up tomorrow morning.
As he pushed his way through the oddly heavy doors of the base hospital, it immediately occurred to him that it was way too quiet this morning. The hospital was practically empty, save for the old, but still very much in shape, man in the middle of the lobby.
“Jack! This early? I wasn’t expecting you for at least another seven minutes,” the gray-haired man booms from the center of the lobby. Jack checks his watch, which displays that it is precisely 6:53 AM.
Jack lets out a content sigh, clears his throat, and says, “Morning, Ishmael. I knew there was something off about today. I think I’m finally breaking out of that-“
“That never-ending cycle, yeah yeah. I know, I’ve heard that spiel before.”, Ishmael interrupts. Jack’s nostrils flare and he takes a very stable, calm breath. He absolutely despises being interrupted, and Ishmael knows this. Sometimes Ishmael just likes to push his buttons. “Of course something is off about today. Today is the day your life changes forever, Bucko. Today is the day our world changes forever. Well, since you’re here, there’s no point in dillydallying. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Jack proceeds to get in the elevator with Ishmael. Ishmael picks the desired floor and starts going on about the procedure. Jack stops listening as soon as he realizes the elevator is going down, not up. He thought the elevator could only go up from the lobby. After looking at the choices of floors he realizes that Ishmael actually hit three floors at once which resulted in the elevator going down instead of up. The doors open to what appears to be another normal floor of the hospital. They walk, Ishmael still babbling and Jack still doing everything he can to not pay attention, until they get to their destination. The room is prepped for surgery and the doctor also appears to be dressed for the occasion. “H-hold up guys,” Jack sputters out, “I was told this was going to be a quick injection, not an entire surgery.”
“Do you go out of your way to not listen to the things I say? I swear to God, boy,” Ishmael mumbles as he shakes his head. “It is an injection. They are prepping for someone else’s surgery, but Doc here needs to be the one to administer your shot. Go ahead, Doc.”
Without warning the doctor grabs Jack’s arm, gingerly stabs him with a needle, pushes the plunger, and slaps on a bandage, all before Jack even realized the doctor had gotten close to him.
“Hot damn, Doc. You still got it. Check out the look on his face,” Ishmael points at Jack, who is obviously astonished. “Now remember, son,” Ishmael starts, “If it feels like you are losing control of what you are doing, don’t worry. It’s just the nano-“
“You know he can’t hear you, right?” the doctor explains. “I added a paralyzing agent to the serum to allow the nanomachines to work their way into his brain without him feeling anything. He’s practically in a coma. I figured it was better this way than to have him try and fight it.”
“Paralyzing agent?” Jack thinks to himself. That would explain why he could not speak or control his eyes from closing.
“I guess that makes sense,” Ishmael responds. “I wanted to try and explain myself to him before he went too deep. I feel like I can still get through to him. This would be much easier with him by our side willingly.”
“Explaining himself, going too deep, get through to me? What the hell is going on?!” Jack’s mind was flooding with thoughts as his consciousness finally began to fade.
“Hmph. Willingly.” the doctor snorts.
Jack’s eyes begin to open slowly with the sweet, soft sound of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” plays in his right ear. He thinks to himself, “Has it finally happened? Is this what it’s like to wake up to an alarm clock going off?” The thought quickly disintegrates as he realizes he is not at home, let alone in bed, and has a banging headache. He appears to be in the back of a C-130, which is empty aside from Jack who is fully kitted for a solo reconnaissance mission. Foreigner is abruptly cut off by the annoying sound of continuous beeping in his right ear. He puts his hand up to his ear to find a device in it. The device can’t seem to be removed, but it does have a button on it. He pushes the button and is greeted by Ishmael.
“Hey, Bucko, I see you’re finally starting to come to. That’s what these fancy sensors say, anyway. Sorry for the quickness, quietness, and general informalities, but this one needs to stay off the books. I can explain more when you’re home. Long story short, we had a guy keeping an eye on a project that the Soviets have been working on for a few years now. That guy got captured, and we have some solid intel that says he’s going to squeal. Your job is to get to him before that happens and take him out. Good luck.” As soon as the transmission cuts out, a red light turns on near the C-130’s back door. Jack’s training kicks in and muscle memory turns on. He jogs over to the opening door, grabs the nearest parachute, and prepares to jump. He has no idea where he is supposed to land, as they are passing over nothing but forest. They sure weren’t going easy on him for this first mission since the injection. They just begin to pass over a desolate-looking factory in the middle of the trees when the light turns green.
“Well, looks like I have my LZ,” Jack mutters under his breath as he jumps.
With both feet on the ground, no broken bones, and no alarms in the immediate vicinity, Jack takes inventory of everything he has. Survival knife, binoculars, Walkman, an MRE, and a lockpick. He can just barely make out the factory through the trees, so he decides to start heading that way before it gets too dark to see.
As he approaches the tree line, he is still trying to figure out whether these guards are bored out of their minds or just complete morons. Hopefully, for their sake, the prior. Regardless, it is ridiculously easy to slip past the few guards there are outside. He doesn’t even have to get his hands dirty, he just waits for them to walk by and not notice anything. There is what appears to be a toolshed up against the southern wall of the factory. After getting a little closer, Jack sees that the door is locked from the outside. Intrigued, he approaches the shed with lockpick in hand. Not even ten seconds later he is inside taking in his surroundings. The place is nearly empty, very dark, and there is a makeshift cell in the far corner with someone hunkered down inside of it. Jack slowly starts to make his way toward the cell when a shaky voice comes from within it, “You’ve got that glow in your eyes. Have they really already begun testing? They must be ahead of schedule.”
Jack freezes in place. He knows he is nearly invisible to the naked eye, especially in this kind of darkness. He also knows he barely made a sound when getting into this place.
“Yes, I can see you,” The dark figure rasps as it slowly begins to rise. “Don’t worry, I could see the gleam in those eyes from a mile away, but I doubt any of these imbeciles could. You have undergone the treatment? The transfusion?”
The man has an American accent. He must be the one Jack was sent to eliminate. But why was he asking weird questions? How could he see Jack in the first place?
“Actually, it was an injection. Took about five seconds.” Jack whispers.
“An injection? Five seconds?!” the man exclaims, obviously startled. “It’s been less than a month and they have already made so much progress…”
“Less than a month since what?” Jack asks.
“Since they kicked me off of my own project.”
“Probably the bastards that sent you here to kill me!” The man immediately becomes very hostile, slamming the bars of his cage. “What did Ishmael tell you? That I was going to sell sovereign secrets? That I was going to take over the world? That I’m the bad guy? Oh, just get it over with already. Quit playing dumb and kill me! This isn’t a theatrical performance; I know what you are.”
“You don’t know anything about me.” Jack snaps back.
“Hm. Strange.” The man is now eerily calm with intrigue, almost awe, creeping into his facial expression. “You have the glow in your eyes, the nanomachines are inside of you. Yet, you seem to be in control of your actions, as if the frontal lobe suppressors weren’t doing their job.”
“Nano-what? What exactly are you getting at?” Jack asks cautiously.
“Do you not even know what they did to you? You have been injected with my lifework, nanomachines. I’m sure you have noticed by now, but you have been granted exceptional strength, endurance, speed, and many other abilities. It is probably why you thought you were so well-hidden when you first entered. You were practically invisible and silent, you know. But, when you work with nanomachines for as long as I have, you start to notice little things like the look in someone’s eye after they have been exposed.”
Everything is starting to make sense, even the moronic guards. They weren’t bad at their jobs, they’re probably KGB for crying out loud. Jack is just that good now.
“Nanomachines are like little microscopic computers inside of you. They still have the basics, like a motherboard, memory chips, fans to keep them from overheating. They even have batteries that charge using the heat energy that is created as you move your body. They take over some functions, like oxygenizing blood for example, and do them more efficiently than your body can. For them, it is equivalent to running a basic program. However, when they work together it allows you to do things better than most humans, such as running faster and farther. Put all of these abilities into one person, such as yourself, and they become a super soldier. The only catch is some nanomachines are programmed to go into your brain and suppress your frontal lobe. This essentially wipes out your personality and makes you a zombie under the nanomachines’ controls, and consequently under the control of whoever controls the nanomachines. That last part was the big idea of my colleague, Ishmael. The rest was all my idea.” he grins before getting another stern look on his face.
Jack tries to take this all in at once. After an uncomfortable silence, he finally lets out, “So you’re the big brain behind this grand project to better humanity that just so happened to turn evil? And I’m supposed to believe all of this why?” Jack thinks back to the last conversation he heard before he went under with the injection. The puzzle pieces were starting to fall in place, and he did not like the picture that was forming.
The caged man looks up at him, fury burning in his eyes. “They took everything from me, but I would not expect you to understand or agree with that. I could tell by the look on your face when I mentioned him that you know who Ishmael is. I can also tell that things are starting to add up in your head. I feel like your mind is already made up, but if you really need more proof, I recommend contacting Ishmael himself.”
Jack puts his hand up to his right ear, hits the lone button, and awaits a response. Ishmael’s voice is soon heard, stating, “Jack, I didn’t think I would hear from you this soon. Is the mission going as planned? Is the traitor dead?”
“I am starting to question who the real traitor is here, Ishmael. I’m currently speaking to the target, and he has some very interesting information.”
Ishmael lets out a defeated sigh, and responds, “Damn it, I wanted to be the one to tell you. No matter, the truth is out there, there is no sense in hiding anymore. We both see the future this world is heading toward. All this technology, pretty soon it will be all people know anymore. They already depend on it so much, what do you think the year 2020 will be like for God’s sake? We cannot stand for it any longer. We need to take control by force, the same way our forefathers did 200 years ago. With this technology at my fingertips, I can raise an army worthy of a nation with the push of a button. We can use that army to take control over any and all technological advances, and we can distribute the tech as we see fit. Imagine a world with no more imminent nuclear annihilation. No more groups of people ganging up on those less advanced just to pursue their own interests, like with the Middle-East. I know this seems bad, which is an immense understatement, but we needed to work together with the Soviets to develop the nanomachines before the American military got its hands on them. Be a patriot, son, like me.”
Jack listens carefully and slowly formulates a response for his old mentor. When Ishmael is finished, Jack pipes up, “Ishmael, you know I saw you as a father. You are the reason I got to where I am today. But I will not stand with you or your hypocritical ideologies. Can you not see the irony in your plans? How dependent on nanotechnology you are? I know what must be done.” As soon as Jack finishes the last word, he uses his knife to cut the wires sticking out of the device in his ear, being very careful to leave alone those connected to his Walkman. He looks at the caged man, sadness and desperation in his eyes.
“Oh, yes, you needn’t even ask,” The caged man excitedly blurts. “I figured this day was a probable possibility, so I developed a precautionary virus. I just need access to my lab inside the main building.”
Jack unlocks the cell door while asking, “So, what’s your name, friend?”
“Friend, huh? Well, my friends call me Fox. Thanks for the help, by the way. Sorry you got dragged into this and it had to go down the way it is.” Fox replies sheepishly.
The song in Jack’s ear changes from Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”.
“Don’t be sorry yet, Fox. We still have a lot of work to do.”