Jason Steelheart opened his eyes.
All he saw was sterile white above him, and all he heard was the beeping of monitors all around him. He felt cold, and somehow everything felt unreal, as if he were dreaming. He turned his head to the side and felt a massive wave of pain roll over him.
“Sergeant?” the voice asked again.
Steelheart looked toward the sound of the voice, and saw a young man, dressed in a deep blue uniform with medals pinned across his chest, his white cap held respectively in his hands. A corporal. Did he know him? Something stirred in his mind. Yes, yes he did know him. This young man was a corporal in his division. What was his name..? Martin. Corporal James Martin.
“Martin. Where am I?” Steelhearts voice sounded raspy, and felt like it hadn’t been used for days, maybe even weeks. The more he looked around, the more he saw of the room. Computers, showing blinking dots and something he figured was his heart rate doing the blip…blip…blip…what had happened to him?
“You’re in the hospital, sir. You’ve been in intensive care for days now. This is the first time you’ve woken up since you’ve been here, or so the nurses say.” Martin says, seeming relieved. Steelheart brings an IV’d hand to his head, which he found covered in heavy bandages.
“What happened? Why am I here?” What could’ve happened that he would’ve ended up here? Where had he been before this happened? His muscles ached from not being used for so long, and his head hurt as if there were razors bouncing around inside his brain.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened, sir. We were waiting for the Epic to leave his base, when we were ambushed by his men. They killed twelve of our men, and we killed five of theirs and took two as captives. The Epic never came out and is still alive now. You were shot in the head by one of their snipers, but thankfully you didn’t die,” Martin smiles faintly. “We brought you here as fast as we could. We were just in time- any longer and you would’ve died from blood loss.” Steelheart thought back. Yes, the more he thought about it, he could see them waiting in the dark in front of the dark house. The Epic waiting inside, seemingly not knowing Steelheart and his Marines were outside, waiting. The sudden outbreak of gunfire. Shouts. Chaos. The bullet entering his head…
“What-” he clears his throat. “What do the doctors say? What did the bullet do to my brain?” Steelheart didn’t feel much different. He felt almost normal, except for the terrible pain. Maybe he was feeling different. He didn’t know. He’s on strong medication.
Corporal Martin went on to explain that the bullet had damaged the left frontal lobe of his brain, and considering what could’ve happened, the doctors say it was very lucky it was only that part of his brain that was damaged. Though they say he might experience behavioral changes, because of the injury, and he may want to consider physical therapy. His surgeon says he should be able to sit up soon, and leave hopefully within the month, isn’t that great Sergeant?
And so Jason Steelhearts life went for the next month or so. Two days after waking up that first time, he was able to sit up on his own. The nurses all applauded, but Jason knew that he may never heal all the way, and that was a depressing thought. As soon as he could stand, on about the fifth day, he was sent to therapy to get some movements back. It was then that he experienced his first mental change. He was talking with the therapist, politely, mind you, and then… the man was on the floor, blood on his face, and Jasons knuckles hurt. He wasn’t allowed near that doctor anymore. His doctor says his frontal lobe is responsible for rational decisions, and since his was damaged, that part of his brain doesn’t really know how to communicate anymore. Instead, his mid-brain, responsible for more primal instincts decided it would try its hand at being in charge.
“It’s just what we expected would happen. Sometimes, you might just have, well basically super dramatic mood swings. I would say it’s normal, but really it isn’t.” His surgeon told him. “Hopefully, it’ll fade with time and you’ll have fewer and fewer outbreaks. We really can’t say. Brains are still mostly unknown to us.” Steelheart eventually was able to walk again on his own.
One night, he lay awake, staring at the white hospital ceiling, thinking. Was this what his life will be from now on? Slowly learning to walk again? Two weeks ago, he was an able-bodied Marine, leading his own corps, trying to kill off Epics. Now? Now he was just another man, laying practically crippled in a hospital bed. At least now Corporal Martin will get promoted…suddenly, a stabbing pain went through his heart, spreading throughout his body, like a million shards of glass, slowly being pushed along his bones and muscles. He reached for his call button, hoping the nurses would tell him this was normal, here, have some pain medication. A fresh wave of searing pain flooded his body. The monitor that showed his heart rate flat-lined, just as suddenly as the pain started, it vanished, and Jason blacked out.
Steelheart could barely even remember why he passed out when he woke up again. He had a memory of pain…was it real? He felt better than he had in weeks. His brain no longer hurt with the slightest movements. He threw the thin hospital blanket off of his legs, and sat up. Nothing. No pain. Steelheart almost cried with joy. He swung his legs off the edge of the bed, and slowly lowered himself to the floor. His legs felt as strong as they had during his last training exercise, which is to say, they felt amazing. Was he healed? Just like that? He reached again for the call button. Two nurses came rushing in, looking concerned, searching the bed first, not expecting him to be standing on his feet without a cane or an arm of someone else.
“I’m healed!” Jason exclaimed. “I feel no pain, no weakness. Is this supposed to happen?” The nurses only shook their heads, too stunned to speak. One of the nurses went to get his surgeon, who was luckily still at the hospital. He ran into the room, not believing what he had been told. Steelheart beamed at him.
“This isn’t possible,” the doctor said, his head shaking disbelievingly. “There’s no logical way…motor skills still needed help two hours ago…impossible…” His head shot up suddenly. “Come with me. I want to run a few tests.”
Steelheart told him everything that had happened, the intense pain, the monitor, and how the pain had gone. As he was telling his story, his surgeon placed him in front of the x-ray machine. He held perfectly still, letting the machine do its thing. The doctor ran a few more random tests. He looked more and more worry after each one.
“Jason…” he starts. “You’re an Epic.”
And that’s when Jason Steelhearts world fell apart.