"I Woke Up Like This" Some of us have it like that...
As luck would have it, Dr. Spain, the physician assigned to Monika had been a member of the research team that worked with the Women’s Strike Team Exploration. Fresh out of residency and unsure about the specialty he wanted to go into, research sounded intriguing to the young physician, especially the thought of having a hand in developing combat technology. He had voluntarily signed his name on the dotted line to go to Afghanistan for the experience. According to him, the higher ranking officials never allowed him an opportunity to be anything other than an observer or an assistant, but he made use of his downtime time studying the data and altering formulas that were used during the soldiers’ training. Monika would be his first human test subject and an opportunity to resume his research since the government dismantled the project. With all the peculiar things that had been going on with her body the previous few weeks, she was happy to oblige. Finally, she had someone she could confide in who understood her condition. Because up to this point, she certainly did not.
“Monika, I am very familiar with your situation, and I’m positive I can help,” he had told her.
Dr. Spain then went on to try to explain what was happening to her. In an effort to create the ultimate elite soldier, government researchers developed drugs, similar to steroids, that gave the soldiers endurance and strength that could last for weeks, even months at a time allowing longer battle cycles. With military downsizing and the increase in mental and physical casualties, the meds gave an average person the strength of ten men, natural body armor, and the ability carry out the bloodiest battles without harsh mental stress, like PTSD. Soldiers could carry out their missions like robots, allowing them to fight as ruthlessly as the worse Taliban and ISIS warrior. Researchers had even started to experiment with specialized tactical aptitude for different groups of fighters such as natural cloaking abilities and night vision when Congress suddenly pulled the plug on the program without explanation at the end of Monika’s tour of duty.
The Army had primarily used women as case studies to create a molecular formula from the ground up. The theory was to create the strongest formula for the weakest subjects, physically and emotionally, and then modify the serum levels according to the soldiers’ chemical makeup. Since women are primarily considered to be the weaker sex, it made sense to the government to use them for the experiment before they tried the formula on the men. Dr. Spain thought the study to be cruel; the equivalent of testing on animals. And to make matters worse, test subjects had not been informed they were part of an experiment. The shots were passed off as routine immunizations, not uncommon to the ones all soldiers received prior to joining the military or leaving the country. The women selected for this trial were predetermined during their initial physical at the Military Entrance Processing Station prior to even taking the oath to serve. The initial injections were given to them before they even reported to boot camp. After that, periodic inoculations were provided throughout their first year of service. The medication levels were increased with every dosage given and by the time the soldiers reached the training phase in Afghanistan, they had already built up a healthy dose in their system and their bodies had built up a tolerance to the medications.
The best that Monika and Dr. Spain could figure, she probably had been accidentally given the test drug instead of the placebo in the round of routine inoculations given to everyone before they boarded the plane to go overseas. Since Monika probably had not received the accompanying inoculations as the rest of the women had, her body was responding differently. That was the only plausible explanation for her newly acquired abilities. And her well below normal blood pressure was a dead giveaway to Dr. Spain that she had indeed become an unwitting test subject, telling Monika it was medically impossible for anyone to be alive with blood pressure that low, much less execute normal day to day functions. Trained athletes maintained lower than average blood pressures, as a general rule. For the soldier to function at a high capacity the drug lowered their blood pressure and heart rate, which also aided the soldier’s endurance. The drugs operated on the premise of maintaining the body’s homeostasis by moderating the functions of the heart and lungs in an effort to keep itself from overheating. This decreased the opportunity for injury, and when injury did occur, the body would be able to heal itself rapidly. But there was a catch. Once the body was out of danger, the only way for the body to repair itself would be for the person to go into a deep coma-like sleep for hours, sometimes days, to allow those cells to completely regenerate. Hence, Monika’s recent Rip Van Winkle-like slumber.
“The higher-ups used my research, but tied my hands when it came to allowing me to actually conduct any experiments,” Dr. Spain expounded. “I developed my own training program to help those women adjust to the meds gradually to prevent the severe physical and mental side effects. But the Army wanted maximum results with minimal effort. Many of those women suffered as a result, and when I tried to go up the chain with my complaints, I was black balled, and eventually sent back to the States. I barely got out of the service with an honorable discharge.”
Monika was amazed at how effectively she had been kept in the dark all that time about what was actually happening at the training camp right under her nose. Maybe it was youth that caused her not to question why her superiors had been so overly protective of those files.
“I have a client who was a trainee there who tells some outlandish stories about that place. And now, I’m not so sure that she’s not telling the truth,” Monika confided.
“And let me guess,” Dr. Spain, answered sarcastically. “She’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia.”
Monika’s eyes widened, afraid she had breached Hillary’s confidentiality. “You know her?”
Dr. Spain shook his head. “No. That’s how they explain away her stories. They make the ones who won’t stay silent out to be psychopaths and dope them up on antipsychotic meds. Nobody’ll believe the mad ramblings of a crazy veteran with PTSD.”
Monika was astounded by her own naiveté. She had been working so hard to help people in a system that was working against her. Suddenly, she felt helpless.
“Where does all this leave me?” she asked.
Dr. Spain took her hand. “Knowledge is power. And what you now know puts you in a position to get better and be stronger. I’ll give you all the tools you need to help you manage your pain and your new abilities. And who knows? You might be able to use your talents as a social worker, along with your newfound talents to help those other women get better too.”
She looked into the good doctor’s eyes. She needed to trust him. She needed more help than a regular practitioner could provide for her, and she definitely couldn’t do it by herself.
She sighed. “I don’t want you to think I’m being ungrateful, Doctor. But based on everything you just told me, it seems like this situation has the potential to get out of hand really quickly. And I don’t want to get involved in another government-run experiment. Besides, I work here, and I don’t want everyone in the hospital knowing my business.”
He smiled mischievously. “I am well prepared to give you the benefit of my services without utilizing the VA facilities. And as far as confidentiality goes, I had to sign a full non-disclosure agreement before I left the military. That was one of the conditions for them letting me out honorably. It may sound like dialogue from a bad movie, but I already told you, so technically, I’m supposed to kill you.” He laughed, but Monika did not.
Dr. Spain cleared his throat and yanked nervously at his tie. “I’m sorry, Ms. Rock. That was a poor choice of words. I lost my professional bearing for a moment.”
Monika relaxed a little.
“Let me put it to you this way. You told me all of your business and I’ve told you mine. By default, we are bound to keep each other’s secrets. But I trust you. Will you trust me?” He extended his hand to her. She smiled and shook it warmly.
“Thanks, Dr. Spain,” she said, relieved.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he replied. “We haven’t started the training.”
Dr. Spain placed her on a strict exercise regimen to maintain her heart rate so she could keep up her energy level, three hours a day, five days a week, before and after work. He told her it was extremely important for her to remain active to balance her heart function and her body processes. Her previous inactivity was apparently the primary cause of her joint pain and bruising. As much as Monika had resisted exercise since she left active duty, she had to admit the exercise lessened her suffering a great deal. She even slept better and so far, had not experienced another prolonged slumber episode. She also saw noticeable improvement in her appearance after just a couple of weeks of exercise. Her body tightened, and she developed a nice six pack and guns like Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to do With It. And her backside was round and firm as if she had done years of squats. Even Prize noticed. He watched her every move in silent approval when they were together, to the point where he made her blush.
Dr. Spain also taught her meditation to help her control her disappearing technique and Tai Chi to help her focus her breathing and allow for more fluid movement as her body cells changed from state to state.
Monika’s health was starting to improve and her career appeared to be taking off. Even her love life seemed to be gaining momentum. Life wasn’t perfect, but she was starting to get to the good part. What could go wrong?
Hillary Madsen had been adjusting well to her new home in the recently opened transitional house funded under the direction of Prize, the man Monika had been dating for the last few months. Hillary was on a new medication regimen that she was reportedly sticking to, and she was even set to start a new job the following week. So Monika was surprised to hear Hillary’s voice on her voice mail, slurred and incoherent. Monika had been out on site visits most of the day. When she received the message, she was almost at the end of her tour. Hillary’s words, although they didn’t make much sense, troubled Monika.
"The devil followed me back from the desert. He’s trying to make me go back! Please don’t let him send me back! You gotta help me!”
Monika was used to Hillary’s unfounded tirades, and she was a little disheartened that Hillary appeared to be experiencing a setback. Monika sighed. She put in an official business call to Prize on her way out the door to see if Hillary was still at the house. She planned to drop by there on her way home from work to see if she could get to the bottom of Hillary’s cryptic message. She got Prize’s machine, but decided to go by the house rather than leave him a message. He was probably dealing with something at the shelter anyway, and couldn’t get to the phone. Besides, she didn’t want to get into the habit of mixing business with pleasure by using him to help her keep track of her clients.
Monika recalled the conversation she had with Dr. Spain during her initial primary care visit at the VA. Was it possible Hillary’s life really could be in danger? Without wasting another moment to ponder the situation, she grabbed her cellphone and headed to the parking lot. She dialed Dr. Spain’s personal number and unlocked her car. He picked it up on the first ring.
“Are you able to talk?” she asked, opening her car door.
“Sure. Is everything okay?” He sounded a little concerned.
Monika hesitated. “I’m not sure. We never really went into detail about this, but I need you to tell me everything you know about the government’s involvement with the Women’s Strike Team Exploration trainees since they dismantled the program.”
There was a brief silence on the line. Monika positioned herself in the driver’s seat.
“Is this about your client?”
“Meet me downtown at the old, big warehouse next to the shipyard.” Dr. Spain instructed and disconnected the call.
Without returning to her office to even shut down her computer, Monika closed her car door and sped off to the shipyard.
When she arrived, Dr. Spain was waiting with a large manila envelope. Without a word, he handed it to her. She opened it and gasped. There were profiles of all the women trainees of the Women’s Strike Team with pictures, along with training and medical summaries. Each profile included their acquired enhancements following the injections given, and their performance levels after each dosage received.
After scanning the papers briefly, she looked up and asked Dr. Spain, “Some of the women are listed as reassigned after their discharge dates. How can someone be reassigned if you’re not even enlisted, anymore?”
Dr. Spain looked around suspiciously and motioned for her to get in his car.
Monika hesitated, and then nervously complied.
“Monika, the government shut down the Women’s Strike Team to avoid a huge scandal similar to the Navy’s Tailhook.”
She gasped. “Are you saying those women were sexually assaulted?”
He shook his head. “Worse than that. They were being pimped. The Women’s Strike Team were trained to be ultimate elite soldiers. And we all know that being a soldier comes with a certain level of brainwashing. Those women were hopped up with steroids, essentially steroids - on - steroids, and then made to fight each other ruthlessly like dogs as part of their training and as bartering chips for American prisoners-of-war. For the fights, they were given the fast acting medication that wore off after a couple of hours, so they would have some fight left in them after the matches, but still be able to be subdued by the men. They had a hell of a lot more fight in them than normal women, and many of the terrorists liked the thought of working a little harder for it, I guess.” Dr. Spain grimaced and continued.
“One night, some of the male trainers got drunk and thought it would be a funny joke to offer a female trainee without the benefit of enhancement to one of the terrorists; only the guy didn’t realize it was a practical joke. She was raped and beaten pretty bad, to the point where the other women went up the chain to report it. DoD ordered the program dismantled immediately and payed the women off to keep quiet. The victim committed suicide a couple of weeks after returning to American soil, and Uncle Sam has been offering up all types of perks to the other girls in that unit to shut them up; full disability without all the red tape, free schooling--”
“Jobs? Hence the reassignments?” Monika interjected.
Dr. Spain shook his head again. “Not quite. These women had been injected with a steady stream of drugs in their system regularly since they joined the army. But the military didn’t take into account what would happen once the medication started to leave their system. I tried to tell them. I even testified before Congress. But without our drugs, most of these women have developed addict-like cravings, and they end up using some type of illegal drugs to compensate. That’s part of the reason why your client is having so many problems.”
Monika was confused. “But you still haven’t answered my question. What about that ‘reassignment’ status in their file?”
Dr. Spain paused and took a deep breath. “These women are starting to become too great of an expense to the government. And with several people still alive to tell the tale, they are also a huge liability. These women are being sent back to the Middle East to be sold into the sex slave trade.”
Monika was stunned. “You can’t be serious! How can the government be involved in human trafficking?”
“When you print the money, you can be into anything you want. But they are using area homeless shelters to help with the dirty work. The government gives monetary grants to area homeless shelters to take these women in and keep them under surveillance. The more aggressive or vocal ones are deemed a threat to national security and shipped off to the Middle East, courtesy of the homeless shelter staff. Then the shelter gets a kickback for the ones they dispose of. If anyone asks, like say, family members, they are told the women were rehabilitated and given an opportunity to go back to the Middle East to work as a contractor. Nobody questions the story because there’s a lot of money in contracting.”
Monika was livid. “I don’t believe this! You’ve known about this the whole time. How could you know all of this and act as if nothing is going on?”
“I know how it sounds, Monika,” Dr. Spain defended, “but think about it? What was I gonna do, call the police? I’m going out on a limb by telling you. That’s why I had you meet me out here.”
Monika rolled her eyes.
“Look, Monika. I could have had a job with some of the top research firms in the world. I monitored that serum they pumped into those women. They tied my hands because they didn’t want to take the instruction I gave them on how to use the drug responsibly. And a lot of people got hurt. I’m of no use to anyone if I’m dead. I took the job at the VA in the primary care clinic in hopes that I would run across at least one of those women who might still be sane enough to help me fix this mess. And then they assigned you to me. Why do you think I’ve been spending so much time working with your condition outside the VA? With your powers under my direction, and my information and your connections, we’ve got everything we need to go against the government to stop this madness once and for all!”
Monika shook her head. As far as she was concerned, her entire career had been a lie. The government was using women as guinea pigs for some twisted science project. And somehow, she had been unwittingly caught in the middle of it. And now her new doctor, whom she liked and respected, wanted her to help him save the world like Pinky and the Brain. But her first priority had always been her clients. So she owed it to Hillary and the rest of the ladies to do what she could to help them, even if it meant through some unconventional methods outside the parameters of the VA.
She sighed. “I’m headed to the shelter now to investigate. I’ll be in touch.”
Dr. Spain smiled. “If you get in a tight spot, remember what I taught you.”
With a quick nod, Monika jumped out of his car and hurried back to her own.