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|Andrew ran all the way home. He was oblivious to all the cars that drove by him on their way into Orillia. The drivers and passengers gawked at his huge muscular frame, but Andrew was too focused on getting home to notice. Suddenly he heard a horn honking, and looked up to see his car turn in front of him and stop. Andrew couldn’t stop in time, and ran into the car, shoving it back a few feet. “Whoa man, calm down, please!” Andrew heard Steve say. He looked up to see Steve in the driver’s seat of Andrew’s car. “What are you doing in my car?” Andrew asked Steve. “Where’s Carrie?” “Carrie’s at home,” Steve replied. “She sent me to collect you.” “Why?” asked Andrew. “Collect me for what?” “An appointment with Dr. Johnson,” Steve replied. “He wants to check your progress and run a few strength tests.” “Good idea,” agreed Andrew, breathing heavily. “Except that I am too tired from that run. I doubt I could perform many strength tests today.” “How can you be tired?” Steve asked. “You just shoved the car a few feet, just by acci-dentally running into it!” “When Margaret put me through the strength tests at her cottage, she also tried to knock me out with Tranquilizer darts,” Andrew replied. “They must be having a delayed effect. But if I can still shove the car accidentally, I guess the darts did not decrease my strength, only my endurance. That’s good to know; that I will be sluggish with Tranquilizers in me. At least, it will be useful information for anyone who tries to restrain me.” “Good, because your strength is scary enough, even when you display it by accident,” Steve remarked. “It’s almost like you’re on steroids: you’re so strong.” “Fortunately the blood tests all came back clean,” Andrew reminded him. He put his hands on the car hood to catch his breath. “My adrenal gland itself is just in overdrive, and my testosterone levels are through the roof. I guess the Doctors on the Space Station know how to enhance humans without drugs. Maybe they were trying to make humans in their country as strong as Commander Marge and her crew.” “That could be it,” Steve agreed. “It sounds like you have an extended Fight or Flight response,” he added, helping Andrew into the passenger seat. “That would certainly explain your Superhuman Strength.” “Except that whatever shuts the adrenaline off when people calm down is missing,” An-drew realized. “That must be why I have superhuman strength even when I’m calm.” “I see your 150 IQ has not been wasted,” Steve realized, as he drove them to the hospital. “Thank man,” Andrew grinned. “Now if only I could get some tutoring in Physics, I could get my mark above 80 percent.” “What, an A- isn’t good enough for you?” Steve joked. “You need an A+?” “I want to graduate Valedictorian,” Andrew reminded him. “Maintaining an A+ average will also help secure my athletic scholarship.” “Good thinking,” Steve agreed. “So when are the Tranquilizers actually going to knock you out? Or will they just make you tired?” “Margaret fired 10 darts at me,” Andrew reminded him. “But if I bench 6000 pounds regularly, I must be 40 times stronger than the normal man. So it will take a while for ten doses of tranquilizer to knock me out.” He looked over at Steve and asked, “Why do you want to know? Are you hoping I become unconscious for some reason?” “I see you’re too smart to keep anything from,” Steve realized. “So I’ll explain. Everyone is worried about you. You haven’t been yourself since we got back from Alexander’s base. You have been much more angry and short-tempered than usual.” “It doesn’t help when I feel that everyone knows everything about how I was changed and I don’t,” Andrew reminded him. “I still don’t think I have the whole story. How much do you know?” “I know that Margaret and Marge were planning to enhance you,” Steve replied. “But the Doctors in the Space Station did not tell me that until you were already in surgery that day in July. The Doctor rattled off some chemical names that made no sense to me. But I got the impression that the genetic enhancement therapy would gradually shut down the chemical that returns the body to normal after an adrenaline surge. The therapy would also keep the adrenal gland producing the chemical that is responsible for great strength. Margaret’s magic also allowed your heart to stand the higher heart rate and blood pressure that the adrenaline surge depended on. That way, your body could handle the higher Adrenaline Levels without harm.” “Thanks Steve,” Andrew thanked him as they pulled up in front of the hospital. “That helps a bit. But I guess it will be like peeling an onion; it will take conversations with other people before I find out the whole story.” “Sorry I don’t know more,” Steve apologized, as they headed into the hospital. “But there’s Dr. Johnson, ask him all about it.” “I see you’re still awake,” Johnson said, as Andrew came up to the admitting desk. “Did you really think that 10 Tranquilizer Darts would be enough to knock me out?” An-drew sneered. “It will take a lot more than that to do the job.” “Well, we’ll soon find out,” Dr. Johnson stated. “Come with me please.” “I’ll be here when you get back, Andrew,” Steve assured Andrew. “Take good care of him Doctor.” “I will,” Dr. Johnson promised. “Don’t worry about a thing Steve.” He led Andrew through the double doors, and some doctors and nurses followed them. “Why are all these doctors and nurses coming with us?” Andrew asked. “You’re not afraid of me, are you?” “The way you casually lifted me up last time, yes,” Dr. Johnson admitted reluctantly. “But that’s why we’re here today, to prevent such an incident from ever occurring again.” “You mean you’re going to make me so weak, I’ll never be able to lift anyone again?” asked Andrew, confused. “No, no, you misunderstand,” the Doctor stated. “We’re here to make sure you don’t become a bully, and harm others, even by accident.” “And maybe to find out what went wrong with the Enhancement process in the first place?” Andrew asked. “It does seem to be ahead of schedule, and it obviously has some emotional side effects as well.” “I see we won’t need to use Layman’s Terms with you,” The Doctor realized. “But we’re at the Examination Room now, so we’ll have to wait until you’re awake to give you the results of the test. Please lie down on this bed, Andrew.” Andrew calmly lay down on the bed, as Dr. Johnson brought over the gas mask. “What have you got there?” Andrew asked. “Are those more sedatives?” “Yes, as well as some Prozac to calm you down,” Johnson agreed. “Breath deeply, please,” he added, as he slipped the mask over Andrew’s face. Andrew breathed deeply, as he noticed the doctors and nurses securing him to the bed with chains. Then they stepped back, as Johnson brought over his testing equipment. “What are these chains for?” Andrew asked. “Just a strength test of our own,” Dr. Johnson replied. “When you wake up, try to break the chains. The cameras will catch all the footage for playback later. Are you feeling sleepy yet?” “Yes,” murmured Andrew, as his eyes began to close. “See you when I wake up.” When Andrew was finally asleep, the Doctor and nurses gathered around the bed, and watched the displays of Dr. Johnson’s testing equipment. “Amazing,” said one medical student. “Are those mental readings normal for this Adrenaline Enhancement process?” “They are normal for the brief Fight or Flight Response,” Dr. Johnson replied. “Andrew has been experiencing feelings of extreme confidence and invincibility. That is where the danger lies: if anyone stood in the way of someone in such a state, the subject could kill them in their blind rage. But it looks like the Prozac is working. Andrew is calming down. And not a moment too soon either. He was approaching dangerous levels of testosterone and adrenaline. But they are now leveling off to safer levels.” He motioned at the monitor, and they all saw that Andrew’s testosterone levels were stabilizing, as were his Adrenaline levels. “I think we got the dosage right, finally,” Johnson stated, breathing a sigh of relief. “Now his enhancement should proceed at the normal rate, without any emotional side effects.” About 30 minutes later, Andrew finally woke up. “Whoa what a headache,” he groaned. “Hey, what are these chains for?” he asked him-self, forgetting what Dr. Johnson had told him earlier. Andrew took a deep breath, and sat up quickly, snapping the chains into useless pieces that fell to the ground. “Yeah!” An-drew laughed, “Now that’s power! I didn’t think those puny chains could hold me down! Maybe this was the strength test the Doctor was talking about. I guess I passed.” He was still laughing when Dr. Johnson walked in the private room 30 seconds later. “What’s all this noise in here?” the Doctor asked. “The nurses thought someone broke the window.” He looked down at the chains on the floor and then up into Andrew’s face. “Oh no,” he thought to himself, “The chains couldn’t hold him down!” “What’s wrong Doctor?” Andrew asked. “What were these chains for?” he added innocently. He motioned at the broken chains on the ground and shrugged. “I guess they didn’t do much good, did they?” He laughed again. “It looks like you passed our strength test,” Johnson said. “That’s what the chains were for. Was it hard for you to snap them?” “Nah man, it was easy,” Andrew gloated. “All I had to do was take a deep breath and sit up. These guns did the rest!” He flexed his 30-inch biceps and grinned hugely. “How do I look, Doc?” “You look well Andrew; rested,” Johnson stated. “Are you feeling all right?” “I’ve never felt better in my life,” Andrew realized. “I feel stronger than ever and I feel a lot calmer that I have since July. What did you do?” “I gave you some Prozac to counteract the mental effects of your Adrenal Enhance-ment,” Johnson replied. “Then, once you were mentally stable, we accelerated the process slightly. Now you will reach your maximum strength by New Year’s day.” “Hey that’s great,” Andrew realized. “What a great way to start off the New Year! With a 7,000 pound bench press! I’m glad you said ‘emotional effects’ this time. I almost thought you had tried to take away my strength.” “Yes, I almost misspoke again,” the Doctor realized. “I am just in shock from your awesome display of strength.” He motioned helplessly at the broken chains and added, “I guess it will be useless for anyone to try to restrain you, unless they knock you out first. I want you to promise me that you will use your great strength to help people, not to harm them.” “Don’t worry Doctor,” Andrew assured him, coming over slowly. The Doctor backed away slowly, terrified of Andrew’s great strength, even though he was perfectly calm. “Calm down, Doctor, please!” Andrew begged him, laying a massive hand on Johnson’s small shoulder. The Doctor froze in place, in part because Andrew’s iron grip would not let him back away. Andrew realized this and released his grip. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I hope no one thinks I do.” “I realize that,” Johnson agreed. “But I hope you can understand how scary someone of your size and strength can be, even when they are perfectly calm.” “I guess so,” Andrew agreed, grinning hugely. “Now, did you find out exactly what was wrong with me? “Yes,” agreed Johnson, motioning Andrew to a seat at the desk. “Sit down please and I will explain everything.” “Okay,” agreed Andrew, sitting down. As Dr. Johnson sat down beside him, he added, “I am tired of hearing the story in bits and pieces. I hope you can tell me the whole story at once, without leaving out any critical details.” “It all started back in November,” Johnson began. “When Margaret healed my injuries in Alexander’s cavern?” Andrew realized. “Very good Andrew, that’s exactly right,” agreed the Doctor. “I’m sure she told you how her magic accidentally accelerated your Adrenaline Enhancement.” “I certainly noticed when I was able to lift a 6,000 pound van a few months ahead of schedule,” Andrew agreed. “Not that I knew what the original strength schedule was.” “We don’t either,” Doctor Johnson agreed. “Especially since Margaret’s unpredictable magic started the whole process. Your great strength was only one effect of the change in the speed of your genetic enhancement. Basically, Margaret’s magic had an unforeseen emotional effect as well. Your strength increased by three times, in just a few minutes. This overloaded your brain with testosterone and adrenaline, giving you a huge surge of the Fight or Flight response. But it also blocked the chemical that normally shuts down that response, and even though you calmed down, your great strength remained. Your emotional state also became highly unstable, however. When your adrenal gland suddenly shot out bursts of adrenaline, your emotional state jumped up as well. I noticed the symptoms earlier this month, when you came in to have the shotgun bullets taken out of you. Basically, your-” “Wait a moment,” Andrew realized. “You mean you knew that something was wrong with me a couple of weeks ago, and you didn’t tell me?” “Calm down Andrew,” Johnson urged him. “But you are exactly right again. I knew something was wrong, but I needed time to figure it out. After all, I wouldn’t have been much help to you then without knowing what exactly was wrong with you, would I?” “I guess not,” Andrew realized. “Sorry about that Doctor,” he added, taking a deep breath and trying to calm down. “I just get upset when I feel people are keeping things from me. When my health and mental state are both affected, I need to know.” “We didn’t even know what was wrong with you,” Johnson stated. “We didn’t want to get your hopes up, without being able to tell you something.” “Well your concern for my feelings is touching, but next time I’d rather be kept in-formed,” Andrew advised him. “Do you think you could do that?” “Yes,” agreed the doctor. “But telling you everything would go a lot smoother if you saved your questions until the end and let me finish my sentences. Do you think you could do that for me?” Andrew nodded, even though his face tuned red, as if he were getting angry again. “At least the Prozac is working,” Dr. Johnson said, noticing that Andrew was not shouting in anger. You are showing excellent self-control Andrew.” Andrew grinned and Johnson grinned back. “Now, I just did a blood test on you, and found symptoms similar to someone on PCP, or in the grips of Roid rage. After all, I found it strange that you lifted me out of the way so casually last time, without even asking me first. Then there was the one-handed lifting of Daniel Harrington at Avondale. Those were two incidents where you used your strength to dominate others, like a bully would have.” “He tried to kill me!” Andrew snapped. “And he had his hands on my girlfriend! What would you have done in that situation?” “Well, I wouldn’t have had the strength to do what you did, but I probably would have been jealous too. However, it’s a good thing you called the police first, so that they could arrest him, instead of getting yourself in legal trouble by beating him up.” “The police also said that lifting him up one-handed, and then putting him down again, would catch him off guard and make him slip up. I guess they were right, because he revealed in front of witnesses that he tried to kill me.’ “See, it all worked out,” Johnson said. “But we’re getting off topic again. You had the classic symptoms of Roid rage, because your Adrenaline and Testosterone Levels were surging out of control. I hope you don’t take offense at my next statement, but I can’t think of any other way to say it.” “Just go ahead and say it,” Andrew sighed. “I’ll try not to get mad.” “Basically you were turning into a Typical Arrogant Jock,” Johnson said quickly. “I’m trying really hard not to lose my temper,” Andrew growled through gritted teeth. “You don’t want me to lose my temper.” He looked down at his clenched fists, which were white with fury. He took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes, gradually relaxing his hands. He looked up at Johnson again. “But I hope you realize how judgmental that statement was. Some of those ‘Typical Arrogant Jocks’ are my best friends. People like Steve, Connor, Ralph, and even Anthony and his buds in Miami.” “I know, I know,” The Doctor said, raising his hands to keep Andrew calm. “But I could not think of any other way to say it. I apologize.” “Apology accepted Doctor,” Andrew grinned, shaking his hand gently. Then his smile changed to a stern look. “But don’t ever talk about my friends, or me, that way again. Do we understand each other?” “Yes sir,” Johnson gulped, without thinking. “I won’t. May I continue now?” “Go ahead,” agreed Andrew. “But choose your words more carefully this time.” “Everything came to a head today,” Johnson stated. “First there was your arrogance around Margaret. Then there was your reluctance to help others because you were afraid of attention, and finally your outbursts at Margaret, and Carrie. All those incidents were evidence of emotional instability, and I knew I had to take action quickly. So I had Steve bring you here, while I got the Tranquilizers ready. I also called your family and Margaret, and Carrie, to let them know what had happened. Margaret has said that she will stop using her magic on humans, since the results are too unpredictable. That’s the whole story, with no omissions. Do you have any questions, Andrew?” “Just one,” Andrew replied. “Why did you have Steve bring me here?” “He’s the only one who can handle you,” Dr. Johnson replied. “How can that be?” Andrew asked. “He’s nowhere near my strength level! Is he?” “Actually, he is getting close to your strength level now,” Dr. Johnson replied. “Remember when you went to Marge’s Haunted House?” “Yes I do, back in November,” Andrew stated. “Let me guess, Marge made more Adrenal Enhancement Serum and enhanced him too?” “I don’t see why I should have to explain things to you,” Johnson grinned. “You’re so smart, you figure everything out.” “So I am right,” Andrew said. “Marge turned Steve into a Tank as well, didn’t she?” “Yes she did,” Johnson agreed. “She only used technology this time, to avoid any emotional side effects. Of course she used Prozac in the mixture too, just to make sure.” “Make sure of what?” asked Andrew. “That he wouldn’t become mentally unbalanced, like I did?” ‘That’s true,” agreed the Doctor. “So you now have some company at the top of the strength pyramid.” “One question Doctor,” Andrew said. “Margaret told Carrie back in July that she used her magic to keep my heart rate normal, while still allowing me to have great strength. How did she do that?” “Well, I got this issue of Men’s Health to explain it,” Dr. Johnson replied, holding up the October issue. “It described your situation perfectly. Basically, the Sympathetic Nervous System releases Catecholamine, increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and muscular strength. That is the chemical part of the Fight or Flight Response, also known as Adrenal Enhancement, in medical terms. But, while it would allow car lifting for brief intervals, it wears off quickly.” “Margaret used her magic to make the adrenaline last longer,” Andrew stated. “But what is the medical explanation for how she did it?” “She suppressed the Hydrocortisone Production from the Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis,” Dr. Johnson replied. Andrew looked at him blankly, so Johnson added, “She stopped the production of the chemical that cancels out adrenaline and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. However, since it was the higher heart rate and blood pressure that could eventually lead to a cardiac event if your body could not adapt, Margaret strengthened your cardiovascular system with magic, which allowed the adrenaline surge to last longer, without harming your heart. She thought she was lowering your heart rate, but that would have cancelled out your great strength. I guess the magic spell adapted to her wishes: to keep your adrenaline going, but not being a Doctor, she didn’t know exactly how the process worked. Then Marge and the Space station doctors gave you the same cardiovascular strengthening treatment, but permanently this time, with their advanced medical techniques. Since they were Doctors, they knew exactly what medical treatment to give you so that you would be permanently enhanced, on purpose. Does that help explain it better?” “Yes Doctor,” Andrew agreed. “Thank you for explaining everything. But does that mean I have a higher heart rate that normal?” “Yes it does,” agreed Dr. Johnson. “You have to, or you would never have the increased blood flow to your muscles that allows them to help you lift a car. Here, listen.” He brought over the stethoscope and hooked it into Andrew’s ears. “Place thee plate right here,” he said, motioning to Andrew’s left pec. “Then listen carefully.” Andrew took a deep breath and then listened carefully. “It sound almost like the heart rate of a mouse!” he marveled. “Are you absolutely certain that my heart can take this high rate, all the time?” “Let me listen,” Dr. Johnson requested. Andrew unhooked the stethoscope from his ears, and handed it over. “Thank you,” said Dr. Johnson, wiping it clean. He plugged it into his own ears, put the disk over Andrew’s heart, and listened carefully. “That is startling,” he remarked. “It is just as fast as a mouse’s heart rate. But it seems to be slowing down now. It must be because you are not lifting anything right now, and you are calming down.” “My father mentioned something about that,” Andrew realized. “He said that the effects of my enhancement would only be noticed when I lifted something heavy or worked out. But you still have not answered my question, Doctor? Can my heart take this enhancement? Or am I in danger of having a heart attack?” “You are fine,” Johnson replied. “Now that I think about it, you just explained why your heart showed no signs of muscle fatigue. What your father told you is the last piece of the puzzle. If your great strength is only noticed when you lift something, then your heart rate and blood pressure are only greatly accelerated at those moments as well. Then they go back to normal when you stop exerting yourself, or when you calm down. That is why your heart rate is so high right now. The enhancement was accelerated by Margaret’s magic, and your heart rate never slowed down. So you were surging with adrenaline and Testosterone this whole month, and that’s why you were so cocky and angry. But I stabilized your physical state, and so your heart rate is returning to normal, making you calmer. Only when you lift a car a gain, will your heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline levels shoot sky high again.” “Well, that makes me feel much better,” Andrew stated. “Is that the whole story Doctor? Can I go now?” “Yes,” Dr. Johnson replied. “Steve is here to pick you up. I’ll go get him.” “Please do,” Andrew requested. “I need to thank him for bringing me here. Thank you also for helping stabilize me mentally.” He came forward and shook Dr. Johnson’s hand gently. “Wow!” Dr. Johnson exclaimed. “What a soft handshake! You have really learned to control your strength! I’ll go get Steve and bring back your prescription.” “Okay Doctor,” Andrew agreed. “What should I do with these chains?” He gestured at the chains on the floor and shrugged. “If they can’t hold me down, nothing can! I can’t believe I just sat up and they snapped!” “Yes it was an amazing display of strength,” agreed Dr. Johnson. “Good thing the camera caught the whole thing.” He motioned to the black dome in the ceiling. “Oh yes,” agreed Andrew. “I guess if it was a strength test, taping it was a good idea. I noticed the video advisories posted all over the hospital.” “Put the chains in here,” Johnson advised Andrew, wheeling over a large recycling bin. “Maybe they can be turned into license plates or wheelchairs. I’ll be right back.” Andrew spent the next few minutes loading the broken chains into the bin. Just for fun, he decided to see if he could snap a few links with his bare hands. He was surprised when the one chain seemed to shatter in his hands. Andrew’s mouth dropped open in shock, but he then he laughed, excited at his superhuman strength. Andrew bent down to clean up the mess, and saw a shadow of a person standing over him. “There he is,” Steve said, as Andrew looked up. “The Football Star, the Jock, the Muscle Freak, the Chain-Snapper, the…” “Best friend whose life you just saved?” finished Andrew, hoping to put an end to the labels. He stood up and shook Steve’s hand. “Thanks man; you’re a real pal.” He finished loading the broken chains into the recycling bin and stood up. “Glad to help out,” Steve replied, slapping Andrew on his huge right shoulder. “I’ll take you home now. Is that all right with you Doctor?” he asked Dr. Johnson, who had just come back into the room. “That’s fine with me, Steve” Johnson replied, handing Andrew two bottles of pills. “ Here Andrew: be sure to take one Prozac and one sedative each morning and night. There is a month’s supply of each one. Come back in January, and we will see if you need more pills. Hopefully you won’t but I’ll have another month’s supply ready just in case.” “Thank you Doctor,” Andrew stated, shaking his hand again. “You and Steve saved my life today. I will not forget it.” “Glad I could help,” the Doctor replied. “I’m glad to see you’re getting back to normal. Be sure to advise me of any sudden outbursts.” He waved goodbye as Andrew and Steve walked out of the room and down the hall. Then he picked up the phone and called Andrew’s father. “Andrew recovered from Margaret’s mistake,” he reported. “Be sure to tell Andrew about the next two testing phases when he gets home.” “Don’t worry,” Sam Pearson replied. “We’ll get him ready.” Doctor Johnson hung up the phone and then took out a red folder labeled ‘Genetic Enhancement Experiment.’ He opened the folder and scanned the first page until he found the next two phone numbers to call. He turned his phone’s 3-way calling feature on and then dialed the numbers, one after another. “Subject 001 is ready for the next phase of testing,” he reported. “Get everything set up for his arrival. Be very careful; he’s much stronger than we thought he would be.” “Don’t worry; we’ll be ready for him,” was the response from both parties. “We look forward to his arrival. Keep in touch.” “Will do,” responded the Doctor. “Goodbye.” He hung up the phone and returned the file to the safe in his office. “Andrew’s testing has just begun,” he thought to himself. “I hope he’s ready.” |
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