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Julia Ambrose bucked and her arms and legs convulsed as her body floated in the tank of warm blue liquid. Her eyes were scrunched shut in pain, a breathing mask sealed around her nose and mouth, and electronic leads trailed from her chest up into the top of the chamber. She had an intravenous line attached to each arm, one to feed her nutrients and fluid, and the other which pushed a slow and steady stream of cobalt blue “nectar” into her veins.
The nectar glowed unnaturally and felt cool as it entered her bloodstream. Burning and misery would come along a bit later.
The Procedure was painful, verging on torturous. And even worse, it supposedly proved fatal in three percent of applications, and resulted in negative side effects in another five percent. This, added to the ninety percent who exhibited no effects whatsoever, meant that Julia had to endure nearly two days of agonizing headaches, muscle spasms, excruciating joint pain, and fevers, all for a lousy two percent chance that she might become one of the “lucky ones”, gifted with an enhanced physical structure and immune system, vastly improved senses, and a metabolism that would allow her to resist all known toxins and heal even serious injuries one hundred times as quickly and efficiently as a normal human being.
Oh, and don’t forget the real special treat: at least one bonus power that would basically define her identity as a hyperhuman.
With a cost rumored to approach ten million U.S. dollars, this meant that a club’s owners would have to fork out, on average, $500 million to create a single new hyperhuman. That was a lot of pain for fifty young people to go through, not to mention that one or two of them would likely die, and another few would probably end up paralyzed or with irreparable brain damage.
“Julia, I have another series of simple questions for you,” said Doctor Victoria Steiner, a soft alto filtered through the liquid of the containment cylinder.
Julia slowly opened her eyes, her pupils large and set in rich mahogany brown irises in stark contrast to her light skin and long honey blond hair which floated languidly around her head and shoulders in loose, wavy strands. She nodded toward Victoria in both greeting and affirmation.
“Okay. I hope you are having a bit easier of a start to the day today than had yesterday morning,” the Doctor begins. “Is your pain level, overall, better or worse than it was? Nod for better, shake your head for worse.”
Julia nodded again. God, how she hated that. If only her parents and brother could have seen her for the past couple of days, with that mask on her face, unable to say a word. They always made fun of her for talking so much, and now they’d surely make fun of her for not being able to get a single word out.
“That’s good, I’m glad. Is the headache weaker today, too?”
Another nod. Thank goodness that the jackhammer pounding in her skull had reduced to the level of an insistent, annoying door knock.
Victoria let out a small sigh of relief. “Your odds are looking up. I think you may have made it through, maybe even with a power. We’ll know soon enough.”
The next day, Victoria and her team of doctors and nurses pulled Julia out of the tank. She alternated between fevers and chills for hours, until her metabolism readjusted to room temperature. She was virtually covered in electrodes and hooked up to a half dozen different monitoring devices. At least the bed was comfortable, and the food was good. Really good. It seemed that the Procedure and facility rental cost included cuisine crafted by a chef who had won several Michelin Stars. Julia didn’t recognize his name, though, but she knew her father would. He was probably one of the most avid consumers of food-centered television programming Julia had ever met.
Oh god, she thought. I’m going to have to tell my parents that I actually did this...Risked my life to become a hyperhuman.
She doubted they’d understand. Parents had a knack for that.
Julia was in the middle of eating some ice cold strawberry flavored gelatin dessert when the lights in her room flickered, sparks shot out from her electrodes and all of her monitor alarms started going off. Victoria and several of her staff members ran into the room moments later, all dressed in bulky suits that looked like the kind worn by bomb squads.
Victoria pointed a large handheld device toward Julia, adjusted several dials on it and looked at the readout. “Well, I think we know what kind of powers you’ve acquired, Miss Ambrose. And we can conclusively welcome you to the hyperhuman club!”
“Whoa,” Julia said as she lifted a hand. She stared at tiny arcs of blue electricity that danced between her fingers.
Over the next week, Julia had to re-learn how to use her body. It was a really strange sensation. She felt like her brain had been transplanted into a stranger at first.
“Everyone changes drastically after undergoing the Procedure if it’s successful in making a subject hyperhuman,” Victoria had said when she first sat down with Julia in her office a month before. “If—I can’t stress that enough—If it works and you’re one of the very few to become hyperhuman, you will become roughly five times as strong as an average person.”
As Victoria and some other scientists watched, Julia demonstrated her newfound might by bench pressing almost 800 pounds. And it wasn’t even that hard: She did eight reps and wasn’t breaking a sweat. She could probably do 1000 pounds, and with training go even higher.