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A Soldier’s Dream
Casparrian awoke drenched from yet another restless slumber. The nightmares he’d been having were becoming more intense, more real. Oftentimes he could not tell if was asleep or awake – and that constant state of never reaching a peaceful sleep was affecting him physically and mentally.
The company doctors could not explain it. Even the use of sedatives would wear off with him much sooner than they should have. The best they could do was give him meds so Casparrian would not crash while on duty.
What Casparrian didn’t know was he was part of a government test.
Unbeknownst to Casparrian, the government was running a covert project to determine the effects of keeping their soldiers in a near constant awake state. The company doctors were not involved, but their efforts were being monitored by other doctors.
This, of course, was of little comfort to Casparrian. All he knew was he could not sleep through the night and he had to rely on stimulants to get him through the day. By his count these sleepless nights began almost two months ago. Even the shrinks were clueless. They thought it was some post traumatic incident. But Casparrian knew better.
It has been a year since Casparrian returned from the front line. He was due to ship out to the ice moons of Xanda’har within a week but his sleepless condition could very well prevent him taking on this new mission. And after spending six months training for the gravitational shifts on those moons, he was all set to go. But not now.
For you see, Casparrian was on the command track and trying to move up the ranks fast! He knew his best chance for promotion would be to take these hard rotations and become well-rounded in his skills.
Casparrian did not come from a wealthy family, so there were no connections, no paid commissions. Everything that Casparrian achieved was through determination and hard work!
Normally a scrapper like him would only achieve the rank of sergeant and wind up as fodder on the front line. Not Casparrian! In addition to his perseverance he was smart. His intelligence, more than his physical endurance, is what the base commander saw while Casparrian was training. With a push in the right direction, Casparrian realized a future as a leader. Since that time, it has been the driving force behind his actions.
So now, at age 24, Casparrian was a Captain! Six years of hard work were about to fall away, though, if Casparrian’s condition would not improve. He could handle the fact, albeit begrudgingly, if he tried and failed. Yet nothing prepared him for having this. He was always healthy, so this extreme case of fatigue baffled him more than anyone.
If he didn’t get better by week’s end Casparrian was unsure of what his future would hold for him. He wasn’t a nut case and being a wash-out never entered his mind. To him, Casparrian was dangerously close to failing.
As previously mentioned, Casparrian’s restless nights were part of a government sanctioned test. This covert project was trying to maximize the use of their soldiers. The longer they could go without sleep meant time spent on duty. Already, most soldiers were getting six hours of shuteye a day, but if that could be reduced to two – that’s four more hours of productivity that the government gets out of its military.
Some desk jockey came up with the idea. He proposed this project to the proper general and since then it has become one of the military’s most secretive of projects.
As with all things military, they love to keep their secrets. And have secrets that are more secretive than others. However, in this case, one of the driving forces for keeping it secret was so the general populace would not find out. The People were already growing weary of the war, a war of long forgotten grievances. After all, the war has waged on for fifty years – sometimes losing, sometimes winning, but mainly both sides at a standstill.
The generals needed to find ways to decisively end the war. More productive soldiers are just one facet to their overall plan.
Casparrian’s selection for this project was by no means random. Ever since the base commander back in basic training filed his recommendations for Casparrian’s future, Casparrian’s military career has been closely followed by some at headquarters. When this project came along, Casparrian’s name was submitted for review and approved rather quickly.
The military was taking a chance on this project. The potential for burnout in the test subjects was great. Already two subjects committed suicide and another went on a violent rampage before being shot and killed! Yet the potential reward far outweighed the risk and the project continued onward.
If the project’s doctors found a way to succeed Casparrian would become a hero to the People. A pioneer soldier fighting to make everyone’s lives better! So despite those (as they called it) minor setbacks, the doctor’s continually manipulated the test subjects to maximize their potential.
Even so, the project was on the verge of overall failure since the majority of the remaining subjects were dangerously close to having breakdowns themselves. Much was learned but not necessarily enough to lead to a second round of test subjects. A breakthrough had to occur – and soon – if the project was to survive.
Casparrian apparently held the key, so the doctor’s thought, in unlocking the success of this project. Whether through genetics or sheer determination, they felt that Casparrian was one of a handful of subjects that were highly resilient to fighting off fatigue and becoming stronger. The general overseeing the project knew of Casparrian’s upcoming assignment and was willingly risking Casparrian’s future in the military in order for the project to succeed. After all, what was one Captain’s fate versus winning the war? The odds were yet again stacked against Casparrian. Only he could find the tenacity to find a favorable outcome.
Of course Casparrian knew nothing of this. All he knew was that he was physically exhausted, emotionally draining, and on the verge of mental collapse. Sure he was able to function during the day but his productivity was nowhere near what it once was. His mental acuity was hampered by his lack of sleep and his physical endurance suffered as well. His physical fitness tests were off forty percent from what they should be. Fortunately for Casparrian, his fatigue was taken into consideration and he was not yet scrubbed from his upcoming assignment. That helped him get through the day.
Casparrian was never a quitter. If he were, he would have died years ago in the slums he once called home. Casparrian was smart, quick, and strong – current abilities notwithstanding. In fact, the harsh life in the slums helped mold Casparrian into the quick-witted officer he has since become. His associates were therefore able to shrug off his current “illness” and encouraged him to press on. This, too, gave Casparrian the drive to persevere, to shake off this fatigue, and continue about his duties until he was not longer fit. Some might call it stubbornness, but it saved Casparrian’s life.
Casparrian could just as easily have given up – curl up into a corner and go mad, or even eat a bullet. There were times where they seemed the better option. Casparrian was better than that. If that was his moral composition, then he was at odds with who he was. No, Casparrian was a fighter. No matter what it took, he would find a way through his ordeal and be the stronger man for it. He grew increasingly frustrated with the company doctors, but he knew there was nothing they could do for him. He saw it in their eyes.
After yet another restless night and a fatigue-filled day, Casparrian decided to fight the urge to sleep and stay awake. Although his physical prowess was somewhat diminished, he turned to the gym to help keep him awake. A mix of weight training, running laps, sit-ups, push-ups, boxing – whenever he felt the itch to rest, he just moved on to another exercise.
Morning came and Casparrian was still working out. Although near the point of physical exhaustion, both from the project and from exercising all night, his mind felt sharper, more focused. He thought he found the key to beating it.
The project’s doctors thought this was a significant discovery. Certain project members were placed into positions where they would interact with the subjects. Using highly advanced sensors, they could monitor the subjects without alerting anyone. So when Casparrian seemed mentally fit after his night spent exercising, they doctors were indeed excited.
To help quantify the visual results, they manipulated Casparrian’s day so he had an unexpected appointment with the company doctor first thing. A couple of guards found Casparrian and drove him to the medical facility. There, blood work was taken, a sample of which was procured for the project.
What they discovered, coupled with the continued monitoring of Casparrian that day, excited the project’s doctors. Based on their analysis of the blood work, antibodies were being created at an elevated rate. These antibodies seemed to be fighting off the “infection” of the fatigue. The chemical compounds used to create the fatigue which prevented Casparrian from sleeping in the first place were actually – finally? – being fought by his body.
As this inner war raged, Casparrian felt better as the day progressed. He was nowhere near his prior physical and mental levels, but he hadn’t felt this good in two weeks!
All through the day Casparrian found himself making sharper mental connections, gaining insights into his normal routine. By the end of his shift, he reported on a half dozen methods for making himself and others more efficient. Given his current mental state, these were things that he might have picked up on had he been at full capacity. Even then, some of the recommendations he proposed involved some slightly unorthodox methods which end up being a boon when put to use.
As Casparrian headed for home, he felt like he was becoming his old self again. Time for the gym!
After dinner, Casparrian went back to the gym for another night’s workout. Although his physical fitness was slowly mending, he was still feeling rather fatigued. But after the day’s results from working out overnight the night prior, Casparrian was going to capitalize on this and find a way to mold it to his advantage.
Again, Casparrian went through a full physical routine: running, weight-lifting, sparring – whatever it took to give him the edge when he started feeling tired. The company doctor wanted to see him again first thing in the morning so Casparrian jogged five miles to the medical facility.
The doctor went over the results of the blood work that his labs produced. He mentioned the appearance of antibodies and wanted to take more blood to see what Casparrian’s body was producing. Although stumped by the production of antibodies, the company doctors recognized the signs – Casparrian’s body was fighting something. They didn’t know why physical exertion would trigger this production, but they felt compelled to urge Casparrian to maximize his free-time in this endeavor.
Everyone knew Casparrian was scheduled to ship out in six days. For the first time since this ordeal began, Casparrian was confident he would leave.
Meanwhile, the project’s doctors reviewed the most recent blood work taken from Casparrian and found significantly more antibodies. From the prior day’s sample, they could determine that the antibodies were composed of a certain genetic strain. Not only did it combat the chemicals that Casparrian was given, but it seemed to be triggering his organs, making them more resistant to the stress that Casparrian endured.
To confirm these findings, a few things were needed – an MRI of Casparrian (justifiable for his upcoming mission) and the encouragement of the remaining subjects to combat the fatigue through extreme and prolonged physical exertion.
The project doctor’s were particularly interested to see how the other high-interest subjects reacted to the physical exertion. Some were encouraged to go workout if they couldn’t sleep and they just kept on going even as their minds told them they should stop; they too were feeling the positive effects that Casparrian achieved. Some of the other subjects were signed up for a night sentry shift or their platoon was assigned a last-minute night mission. Whatever it took to get these subjects to not only stay up all night, but do so in a method that kept them physically active.
All of the test subjects were then instructed to head to their company doctors for examinations and blood work. The blood work all revealed the same, and in a few cases somewhat similar, antibodies that Casparrian produced. Even those subjects who weren’t extremely physically active but were awake and engaged in some sort of activity nonetheless! Every single subject had the antibodies!
There was much congratulating on this discovery but everyone on the project knew they weren’t done yet. The brain scans would reveal evidence that would either point to a solution or show that this was a false step.
While all the subjects would undergo a battery of testing, Casparrian was the first to get it done. Since he went two days with the production of antibodies in his system, the project doctors and project leaders were anxiously anticipating the results of the brain scans. The most startling discovery was that synaptic activity increased tenfold. This helped to corroborate the testimony of Casparrian, who told his company doctor that he felt sharper and more aware – to an extent even more than he did before the beginning of this ordeal. Other results were just as promising and potentially as rewarding.
Based on the results that the doctors were seeing, Casparrian’s body was beginning to heal itself. That meant fatigue is a physical and mental condition that can be controlled. Casparrian himself proved this in his visit to the doctor – he said he did not feel as exhausted as he had been. All the tests and blood work confirmed his assertion.
If the rest that the body needs can be adjusted to accommodate certain specifications, then these results are the evidence and building blocks in creating a chemical compound to simulate the effect in others who didn’t undergo such drastic conditions.
All the evidence was indicating that these antibodies were doing more than just fighting fatigue. How were creating synaptic connections and essentially reversing two months worth of fatigue in the course of a couple of days? The findings lead to more questions, but now the questions could be refined to pinpoint these seeming irregularities.
This was just the boost that the project leaders were hoping for. These results, while premature and in no way conclusive, provided the go-ahead to fund a second round of subjects. The data had to be analyzed and pored over first, but the answer was there.
Casparrian, meanwhile, was feeling better. He was no longer as fatigued as he once was. He wasn’t quite himself yet in that regard, yet in other ways he was more than he could have ever become. Casparrian could feel himself changing – his cognitive abilities were more profound, his endurance increased. He consumed more fluids and foods, but the company doctors told him this was normal as his body fought to heal itself. All of this was unexpected, but good news for Casparrian. The stronger and more fit he felt, the better he would do on his upcoming assignment to Xanda’har.
For the third night in a row, Casparrian stayed awake through the night by working out at the gym. Although tiring, he did not feel as exhausted as the prior two nights. In fact, his strength and endurance increased.
The following morning Casparrian found himself again at the medical facility for another check up. The doctor relayed to him the elevated amount of antibodies in the system and also went over the results of the brain scan.
None of this mattered to Casparrian. Sure, he was interested in hearing what was wrong with him and how he was getting better.
All Casparrian wanted to hear is that he was cleared for duty and that his upcoming assignment would go forward as planned. The doctors were slightly more cautious, stating that Casparrian should continue what he was doing and come in for the morning examinations. But they also mentioned that based on the findings, Casparrian would head out in a few days.
While not officially cleared, he was all but told this his command would be ready and waiting for him. That was the best news Casparrian received in a very long time. He hoped to make the best of it.
Casparrian was elated by the news! He proceeded to carry out his shift, once again discovering and correcting before unrecognized anomalies. For the next several days, Casparrian’s daily routine was relatively simple – go to the doctor, go to work, go to the gym. Each new day Casparrian felt stronger, smarter, and healthier. He was becoming his old self again and more! He could feel himself becoming a more efficient soldier, regardless of what he was currently tasked to do. Surprisingly enough, Casparrian no longer felt fatigued. He was sharper than ever before! The need for sleep seemed to go away.
The project doctors were anxiously awaiting the new blood work and other exam results that they received from Casparrian and the other test subjects. Since Casparrian was the first to discover the “cure” his findings were always well scrutinized. Every day, the doctors noted that Casparrian’s physical and mental health were above normal giving the extreme fatigue he endured. The antibodies were practically flooding his blood work. Since Casparrian seemed to be functioning normally, no one was concerned about this. In fact, more antibodies present meant more to work with in developing a serum for the second group of subjects.
The day before the Xanda’har mission, Casparrian was given the official all-clear – he was fit for duty and command, and would be leaving for the Xanda’har system on the morrow. Since the assignment length and the travel time meant he would not be back at the base for two years, Casparrian was given the day to pack and prepare. With one caveat (with the project doctors’ approval) – get some sleep before shipping.
So after he prepped his belongings and stowed his gear in the shuttle storage bay, Casparrian did something he had not done for a long time.
The Tip Jar