Neel Dervin and The Dark Angel

He was a teenage super soldier.
There were certain questions that fourteen year old Neel Dervin had never thought to ask himself.
Like how much pain he could endure before passing out. Or how many times he could be shot and still keep running. Or how often he could lie to his friends and family without feeling remorse.
But then that one fateful day changed his life forever, and set him on a path towards immeasurable power as well as inconceivable terror.
Now the only people who can help him deal with the situation are complete strangers who are using him for their own ends. Trapped in circumstances beyond his control with abilities he barely understands, he must navigate a treacherous path mired in betrayals and difficult choices to take back control of his life

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7. CHAPTER 4: New Limits- Part 2

 

Neel followed the Captain and Divya into the huge hall. He stepped inside the building and stared around. The room was filled with a strange mixture of what seemed like normal exercise equipment, and a host of other, strangely shaped gadgets, the likes of which Neel had never seen before which were hooked up to computers.

"This hall shall be the focus of your visits for now." Captain Arjun told Neel as they entered the gym. "These machines are used to measure the force behind kicks and punches." He indicated the gadgets lying on the tables. Walking over to the nearest table, he pulled out a black bag and handed it to Neel.

"Put these on." he said. Neel opened the bag and drew out a shiny new set of navy blue track clothes. "The changing room is that way." Captain Shukla pointed towards the far right of the hall, where a single room with an attached shower had been added recently.

Neel emerged from the room wearing the track suit. The clothes fit him well, although the slacks were slightly too long for his legs, as was usually the case with most pants he bought. At five feet two inches, Neel was shorter than most of his classmates, a fact that he was self conscious about. He found himself wishing that the miraculous serum could have added a few extra inches to his height as well.

He returned to the hall to find Doctor Fahim standing next to Divya and Captain Shukla. Next to them stood two other men of around Captain Shukla's age, their eyes studying Neel as closely as the Defense Minister and the General's had in Doctor Fahim's room. The way they both stood at attention with their hands behind their backs confirmed their military background.

"Excellent." Doctor Fahim nodded, looking Neel over as he came up to them. "The clothes seem to fit reasonably well, and the extra length of the pants will probably serve you well for the more…athletic part of the program that we have planned today. But before we begin, allow me to introduce to you to your other two trainers." Doctor Fahim indicated the man directly next to him. "This is Lieutenant Tejas Negi."

Negi was a stocky, barrel chested man. The ruggedness of his broad features told of a hard life, but his face had an open, friendly quality to it. He grasped Neel's hand in a firm handshake. "Nice to meet you, Neel." he said. His eyes crinkled with a glint of playfulness as he smiled. "I'm looking forward to working with you. From all I've heard, it seems you can demolish me in a fight with both hands tied behind your back. You'll need thorough training to handle that kind of power, and that's what we'll try our best to provide you with."

"Thanks." Neel said, and found himself returning the smile.

"And this is Lieutenant Yogesh Premi." Doctor Fahim said, indicating the other man.

"Pleasure to meet you." Premi said in a deep voice as he shook Neel's hand. He was as tall as Captain Shukla and Doctor Fahim, and had a slim, sinewy build. His neat moustache reminded Neel of his history teacher's, Mr. Pannikar. Premi looked at Neel carefully, and gave him a slow smile, which did not quite reach his eyes. Neel received the impression that Premi, like the General, was silently sizing him up. He decided that he would prefer to have just Captain Shukla and Lieutenant Negi as his trainers.

Doctor Fahim and Divya led the way to the left side of the hall, where two padded posts had been fixed to the ground. The six of them gathered around the posts, and Doctor Fahim turned to Neel.

"Today we begin the first phase of this operation." Doctor Fahim said. "In order to decide how best to make use of your powers, we must first gain as accurate an idea as possible exactly what you are capable of. We are in an entirely new territory with this project, and knowledge will be our biggest weapon. So we will devote your visit here today to finding out the extent of your strengths and it's limits. Before we begin, do you have any questions you might want to ask?"

"No, sir." Neel said, wondering if he should be standing at attention like Negi and Premi. He wished he was more familiar with army etiquette.

"Then let us begin." Doctor Fahim said. He nodded to Divya, who went over to a wheeled table that was loaded with motion capture equipment, an accelerometer and a computer.

Captain Arjun signaled to Neel to come closer, and he came to stand in front of the two posts.

"These are the machines we'll be using to measure the strength of your body." Captain Shukla said. Neel noticed the other two men had drawn back slightly, and were watching him very intently.

"Now, Neel." Doctor Fahim said. "These are the kind of posts used in professional circles to practice kicking and punching." He motioned to the wires that were running out of the backs of the posts and into a machine kept on the table. "When you hit the post, the sensors attached to it will register the force of the hits, and the computer will record how much force the hits carry, and give us an accurate measurement of your strength. I want you to punch the post with all the strength you can manage, and then kick the other post." He stepped back carefully from the posts. All six of the adults looked at him expectantly.

Neel stared at the posts. He could see several drawbacks to what they were asking him to do, the most obvious one being that they were expecting him to deliver a kick.

"Er… I've never really learnt how to kick." he said nervously. "I've never had, like, a karate lesson or anything. They taught us judo when we were kids, but I don't really remember any of it…"

"That's not important right now." Captain Shukla said. "It doesn't matter how you kick. Right now we need to understand exactly what your kicks can do. Just do it any way that seems natural to you."

Neel nodded. He took up a position between the two posts. The others drew back further. This was beginning to annoy Neel. They were all acting as though he was going to detonate a bomb under them, when he did not have the faintest idea what he was doing.

"As soon as you are ready, Neel." Doctor Fahim called out quietly. Neel focused his attention back on the posts.

He paused for a moment, staring at the two targets. Swinging his fist, he punched the first post as hard as he could. Turning around, he swung his leg up and kicked the other post, accidently stumbling forward and landing hard on the ground. Behind him, he heard a loud metallic clang. He pushed against the floor and sat up on the floor.

He stared up at the others, aware that his first demonstration could not in any way be called impressive. "I told you I didn't know how to kick." He said to the Captain defensively. But he was staring at the posts instead of Neel.

The others gathered around the young boy as he got back to his feet and stared at the posts as well. The one that he had punched was broken in half. The bolts fixing the other one to the ground had torn out, and the post had sailed through the air, trailing wires, and landed ten feet away.

Neel looked at the ruined pads, and then at the doctor. He was conscious of the fact that he had done something very impressive. But he had also fallen down from his own kick, and he had broken the first thing they had given him. "They weren't very strong." He stammered in explanation. "I think we'll need something stronger to test my strength."

"They are used to test heavyweight boxers." Doctor Fahim said. The others were also staring at him and he read disbelief in the eyes of his trainers. "We had arranged for reinforced equipment for these tests." Doctor Fahim continued. "But it seems the results are going to be much greater than what we had been planning for." He turned with a smile to the three trainers, who were all staring at Neel. "Gentlemen, I give you the first Alpha soldier."

"Well, that was certainly even more impressive than what I had been led to believe." Captain Arjun said slowly, staring at the posts. Divya walked over to the computer. "The sensors broke before they could get a proper recording." She called out to Doctor Fahim.

"Then we will need to repeat the experiment next time with stronger equipment." Doctor Fahim said. "Captain Shukla?"

"This way, Neel." the Captain said, motioning towards the door of the hall.

The Captain led the way out of the hall, and to an area of the ground which seemed to have been freshly dug up, so that the earth was soft and yielding.

"The serum underwent considerable change while we were extracting it from the apes and trying to adapt it for human use." Doctor Fahim explained as they made their way to the centre of the field. "It is not possible to ascertain exactly how the capabilities of the apes would translate into a human's body without practical demonstrations. For instance, the apes we studied were able to leap to astonishing heights. Can you guess why?" Neel shook his head.

"Because their legs muscles were so strong, they were able to gather incredible amounts of power in their feet." Doctor Fahim explained. "The increase of Follistatin in leg muscles boosts their strength. The stronger your legs are, the more force is stored in your lower body, and the higher you can jump."

"That's basically how we think your legs will work now." Captain Shukla said as they came to a stop in the middle of the ground. Negi brought out a measuring tape from his jacket, and started unrolling the end. "You saw what you did to that post with your kick. I want you to collect all that strength around your hamstring and calves, and jump as high as you can." Captain Arjun bent and placed a fastener around Neel's leg. He took the end of the tape and attached it to the fastener.

"Okay, Neel." he said, standing up and drawing away from him. "When I say go, jump as high as you can."

"Are you really sure this will work?" Neel looked in confusion at Doctor Fahim and Divya. "I didn't really know what I was doing with those posts. I don't think I-"

"Neel, trust me when I tell you that it is you who do not know what you are capable of." Doctor Fahim broke in calmly. "Just trust us. Jump as hard as you can." He nodded to the Captain.

"Ready?" Captain Shukla called out to Negi. Negi nodded, gripping the other end of the tape firmly.

"Okay, Neel… Go."

Neel bent down, his legs bracing automatically against the ground as his legs grew taut. And then he jumped. There was a confused blur of the scene around him falling down rapidly, and suddenly he found himself staring down several feet below, with the others staring up at him. Neel flailed his arms in the air as he sought to keep his balance, his eyes wide as he stared at the ground beneath him in surprise and disbelief. There was a fierce pounding in his heart, and he felt a sudden, wild thrill shoot through him even as he tried and failed to find his balance.

The trip back to solid ground was much faster, and Neel landed more or less on the same spot that he had left. He landed hard, his body sinking several inches into the soft earth. A faint tremor shook the surrounding area as he sank head first into the soft ground.

Neel rose quickly, rubbing at his face. A generous layer of dirt now covered his features. Divya handed him her handkerchief and he wiped his face, staring at the hole he had made in the ground.

"Twenty six feet." Captain Arjun said in an awed voice. "He jumped twenty six feet in the air from a standing position." He stared up at the sky and then at Neel as the boy handed the handkerchief back to Divya, his heart still pounding fiercely.

"I'm sure he can jump higher with the proper training." Doctor Fahim said, smiling broadly. "How did it feel, Neel?"

Neel stared up at the sky, at the point where he had been suspended just moments ago. "It was…" he stared at Doctor Fahim, trying to find the right words for the heady rush of adrenaline that was still coursing through his body. "Amazing. I've never felt anything like it before." Doctor Fahim smiled.

"And this is just the beginning." he said as he turned and led the way back to the hall.

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