Writing Prompt: “We apologize, we could not find your old body. We had to grow you a new one.”
Joseph Scott slowly blinked his eyes open as a white, fluorescent light shined in his face. At first he thought he had died and this was some sort of heaven or purgatory. But then he heard the rhythmic beating of medical equipment. The beeping of his heart rate as well as many other machines which seemed to surround him. He began to sit up but he found resistance. Straps covered his body and held him to the hospital bed.
“What, what is going on?” Joseph asked, his voice soft and hoarse.
“He’s awake,” A nearby nurse turned and grabbed the shoulder of a nearby doctor.
They turned around and took a seat on a small stool beside the bed.
“Private Scott,” The Doctor said, as she put a pen to her clipboard. “How are you feeling?”
“Where am I? Who are you? What happened? Why am I tied down?” Joseph asked.
“I know you must have a lot of questions. But first we must access your wellbeing. How are you feeling? Any pain or discomfort?” The Doctor asked.
“I…I…” Joseph looked over at his left hand. He turned it over and looked at it closer.
“My scar on my left hand. It’s gone. I…where am I? What happened to me?”
“Private Scott. I’m going to have to ask you to take a few deep breaths. I will explain everything,” The Doctor said. “To start you are safe. You are not in any danger. My name is Dr. Rebecca Clark.”
“Are you an army doctor? This is far too nice for a Vietnamese hospital.”
“You aren’t in Vietnam anymore, Private Scott,” Dr. Clark explained. “This is a Project Lazarus facility. THE Project Lazarus facility, actually.”
“Project Lazarus, what is that?” Joseph asked.
“It’s uh.. Well before I answer that, can you do something for me. Can you think back and tell me the last thing you remember before waking up here?” Dr. Clark asked.
“Uh, sure. I…I was..”
Flashes of memory came back to Joseph. Flashes of the Vietnamese jungles. He saw deep foliage with thick clouds of insects. Rain soaking them as they marched through the mud along roads that had been bombed by American planes the day before. Yelling and screaming as people emerged from the jungle and started to attack from all directions. Explosions ringing in his ears and the sound of bullets in all directions.
“I…I was fighting. There was an ambush. Then there was an explosion. A big one,” Joseph said. “How am I not dead?”
Dr. Clark had a stern look on her face.
“Private Scott. I have some news for you. And it’s not going to be very easy to take. What you remember. That explosion. That’s all true. There was a battle and an ambush. It resulted in American bombers dropping bombs on the Northern Vietnam forces.”
Dr. Clark paused for a moment.
“You didn’t survive that bombing,” She said.
“What do you mean I didn’t survive? How is that possible? How am I here?” Joseph asked.
“My team managed to extract some… parts of you. I apologize that we could not find all of your old body. We had to grow you a new one,” Dr. Clark said.
The heart monitor started to beep faster and faster as Joseph’s breathing became quicker and shakier.
“I…I don’t understand.”
“I know it’s a lot to take in. That’s why you are here. We want you to get used to this information before we debrief you on the next part,” Dr. Clark said.
“There’s a second part. Something even crazier than the fact that I died but now I’m here?”
“Let’s just focus on the fact you are here. My team managed to extract your brain and spinal cord in excellent condition. Then all we had to do is use some stem cells and your cells and we were able to build you a whole new body,” Dr. Clark said. “That’s why that scar is missing. New cells. New hand entirely.”
“No…no this isn’t possible. It’s not. You’re lying. This is a joke or something.”
Joseph struggled against the straps trying to free himself as the heart monitor beeped faster.
“Please. Please calm down. We don’t want to test your new heart too much.”
“Get me out of this thing,” Joseph said through gritted teeth.
“Private Scott, I know it’s a lot to take in. I am explaining an incredible situation and the use of cutting-edge technology. Just try to take it one moment at a time. This is real. You are alive. Those are good things,” Dr. Clark said.
Joseph stopped struggling against the straps and his head fell back on the pillow.
“What about my friends? My family? Do they know? Or…or…” Joseph couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Private Scott, you…” Dr. Clark struggled to find the words. “You died in Vietnam. As far as the people outside this place know, you are dead. I’m sorry but.. It has to stay that way.”
“You’re telling me I can’t talk to my family.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Dr. Clark said.
Once again, Joseph’s head fell back against the pillow as he looked up into the white light.
“Why? Why didn’t you just let me stay dead?” He asked, tears welling up in the corner of his eyes.
Dr. Clark’s eyes fell upon her clipboard.
“I understand why you are so hesitant to see this as it is. But this is an opportunity for you, Private Scott.”
“An opportunity to do what?” Joseph asked without looking at Dr. Clark.
“I think that’s where I come in,” A new voice said.
Joseph turned his head and looked over at this new person. Standing near a set of metal doors 30 feet away from the hospital bed was a military man wearing some sort of high-ranking uniform. Joseph wasn’t good with the whole chain of command thing, but he could tell this person was high up on the chain.
“Who are you?” Joseph asked.
“Private Scott, my name is General Holt. I’m here in charge of this special project. This whole Lazarus Project and this place falls under my command,” General Holt explained. “You are a lucky individual. Brought back from the dead in order to serve your country once again.”
As General Holt approached the medical bed, Dr. Clark took a few steps back, giving this man some space.
“If all of this goes well your name could go down in history books. There could be statues of you. Honors others only dream about. That sounds nice, right?” General Holt flashed a smile.
“Are you sending me back to Vietnam?” Joseph asked.
“No. No. The front against the communists in the Vietnamese Jungles is no longer your concern, Private. Many soldiers will take up that fight in your absence. With you, we have another request.”
General Holt gave a smile as he reached into his breast pocket. He pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it.
Then his eyes went to Josephs’ restraints.
“Hey Doc, can you get those things off of the Private. He’ll want to see this,” General Holt said.
“The restraints. Sir, they are on for our protection,” Dr. Clark said.
“Nonsense. The Private here is not going to harm anyone,” General Holt said. “Isn’t that right, Private.”
“Of course, Sir,” Joseph said as his eyes glanced from Holt to the Doctor.
“There you go. You have his word,” General Holt said.
Dr. Clark nodded as she went to remove the straps across Joseph’s chest and removed the metal handcuffs keeping his wrist to the frame of the bed. The entire time she kept her eyes trained on Joseph.
As soon as Joseph was free, he sat up in the bed and rubbed his wrists.
“Thanks,” Joseph grumbled.
“This is your new mission, Private,” General Holt said as he laid out the piece of paper on Joseph’s lap.
“What am I looking at?” Joseph asked as he analyzed the map.
“This here is a map of Berlin, Private. East Berlin to be precise. In two months time there will be a group of high-ranking officials from East Germany and the Soviet Union meeting to discuss the future of the Eastern Bloc. We want you to infiltrate that meeting,” General Holt said.
“Wait, what? I’m not a spy. I’m just a soldier,” Joseph said.
“Nonsense. Don’t sell yourself short, Private. You’re an anomaly. You’re a dead man who walks again. An American soldier who died in Vietnam can’t show up in East Germany. It would be impossible,” General Holt said. “That’s why you’re the man for the job.”
“I…I don’t understand,” Joseph said.
General Holt placed a hand on Joseph’s shoulder.
“You will in time, son,” General Holt said. “For now we just need to get you in fighting shape. Train you on some basic espionage. That sort of thing. Plus you need to read up on your German and Russian.”
General Holt let out a small chuckle and turned away leaving Joseph with the map splayed out and Dr. Clark standing beside the hospital bed.
“Two months,” General Holt repeated. “We have a lot riding on this.”
General Holt left the room, leaving Joseph wondering if that was just a statement or if it was some sort of threat.
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