He no longer felt the heat of the desert sun at his neck. Just bliss oblivion, the gleaming light in front of his eyes brighter than ever. A gentle figure appeared, and a smiling face appeared, then was joined by a body in white robes. "Eric..." He smiled, reached for her. She frowned, then turned into a giant horned and winged demon, swooping down on Eric.
He awoke, and everything began to hurt.
A cool female voice said, "Patient awake. Project ZEUS cannot continue. Repeat, patient is awake. Project ZEUS cannot continue."
Human voices cursed and light footsteps--soon joined by heavy footsteps--rushed to the aid.
"Lieutenant, we need you to calm down." He writhed in his bonds, trying to scream, trying to yell and shout. Then everything went silent again. They were yelling and talking, but he wasn't hearing. His vision was blurry...he couldn't see...He was getting dizzy. Three white stretched figures appeared in his swaying field of vision. Every word they spoke was in a drawl: "Pleazzh carlm dorown shhhurrr..."
Everything went dark. And silent.
Eric Thake woke up, rubbing his eyes. The disorienting...dream he had had that other day was strange. But it looked like he was in the same exact strange plane hangar-like room. A few SCARs with noise suppressors were hung on the wall, and a dozen or so suppressed submachine guns and Berettas or Glocks were hung near the SCARs.
"I see you are awake, Lieutenant Thake," the room's P.A. announced. "Please take one of the weapons."
A number of assault, battle, and sniper rifles were hung on the wall. He took a XM8 assault rifle with integrated silencer and polyhedral grooving. "Now take a sidearm."
He grabbed a MK23 suppressed pistol.
"We will set up a certain...test to test your new applied abilities. The test will be prepared in three seconds. Three. Two. One." The bright standard yellow lights flashed off and bright blue strobing lights flashed on. "The objective is to pass through these lights unseen. Almost physically impossible, but our mathematicians and physicists say that with your reflex increase and the number of enhancements applied to you, you should be able to pass through fully undetected."
"Easy enough," Thake shrugged.
"There will also be moving targets with old computer-controlled M60 squad machine guns. Reach the blue circle at the end of the test course. Begin." And then, there was a moment's pause, and then the woman's voice added tentatively and sympathetically, "Good luck."
Thake unslung his XM8 rifle and put his left hand on the ground in front of him. He closed his eyes, imagined his line of path. Strangely, it all seemed so clear. His mind was extremely clear now, nearly nothing scarring his path. The lights' randomized patterns never matched a certain pattern, but he could make it through. He kicked off.
Two 5.56mm rounds fired from the XM8, and two lights shut off. Thake jumped, slung his rifle in midair, and jumped back down, barely missing a beam of light slicing where he had just been in midair.
He resumed sprinting at a nearly impossible rate, his combat boots slapping on the ground in the bare room with loud, noisy slaps. The blue target was just ahead. Thake unholstered his sidearm with uncanny precision, and snapped off three fully-suppressed shots.
Four .45 ACP armor-piercing slugs hit two targets, whose M60s overlapped machine-gun fire.
The lights were advancing, and fast. Thake ran through the twenty M60s' stun round fire.
"Project ZEUS is a definite success," the Commander said smugly, crossing her arms with an air of self-confidence and triumph.
"Not yet," the Colonel growled, angry at his error.
"Watch him," the General breathed, as the Lieutenant sprinted into the field of overlapping fire. He never stopped firing, even as nearly seventy stun rounds pelted him. He flinched, but kept on running, his jumpsuit taking most of the blow. The TRIDENT suit is ready, I hope?"
"TRIDENT suit?" the colonel scoffed. "That piece of--"
"Shut your mouth, colonel. I was asking the commander."
"Yes," the commander said, looking normal now. "Operative CASTLE can try it on at any time. Well, any time after the test."
His fingers brushed the target. And he breathed with relief. He had succeeded.
The STEALTH commando, Codename: CASTLE crept along the wall, his MN33 shortened assault rifle/carbine extended. The TRIDENT stealth-and-assault jumpsuit masking his light, wiry, figure blended into his surroundings.
"Castle." A figure of Commander Miranda Larkson appeared on the electronic heads-up display projected from Castle's retina onto his electronic contact lenses.
"We lost your signal for more than a few minutes. Any disruptions or did you simply turn off your radio system?"
"Most likely EM jammer, or it could have just been the wind." He looked up at the sky. An unknowing Boeing 777 flew over. Only 2018 and the main operative of the ZEUS Project, the LOCUST Project, and the ODIN Project, had already saved the world nearly a thousand times. Maybe more or less, but a lot of times all the same. All in all, Castle was still the usual Special Forces soldier, but he had secret ties with Chinese, Russian, German, French, American, British, and Japanese intelligence agencies around the world. The STEALTH group was the "CIA of the Task Force 141."
It fed information directly to TF141, the SAS, Green Berets, even some Chinese special forces.
His reflex time had been improved by a "prototype drug," but by hardly 110%. Further than that would cause "permanent brain trauma and damage and would theoretically destroy the cerebral cortex."
His daydreaming was cut short by an Apache helicopter landing.
He snapped his eyes open and his HUD flashed on from standby-sleeping mode. The model, make, and license plate of the helicopter flashed into a small organized box in the upper right corner. Weaponry that the guards were carrying were identified, and a few of the guards were identified as well. Three large crates of AP ammunition were hauled out. Castle tensed.
Mainly 7.62x51mm NATO rounds, heavy, tracer rounds, and armor-piercing.
Something wasn't right. He ran--silently--and heard gunfire shatter the pipe which he had been hiding behind.
Sniper, machine gun, and infantry fire exploded around him, and nearly fifty blinding-blue floodlights flashed on. "Put your weapons down and stand still." Castle ignored the warning and kept on sprinting. He heard a dozen grenades land around him. He jumped up, grabbed a ledge, punched the three soldiers on the ledge, flipped them off, and jumped onto the ledge. The falling soldiers landed directly in the middle of the grenades.
They made to run, but Castle fired his gun onto one of the grenades, and all the others exploded. He began running again. "Ma'am?"
Commander Larkson's small face icon popped up again. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
"--backup. We've got it. Get in, Lieutenant."
He saw the helicopter right ahead. He dove in.