Chapter 3

Augmentation

Beep, beep, beep…

The sound of the rhythmic beeping of the EKG machine in the background, the shuffling of papers as the nurses check over the paperwork and the pouring of water in a glass cup, Nana could hear it all. 

Nana tried to open his eyes but it was near impossible. His body felt like a piece of heavy lead. Stiff and immobile.  It felt like his eyes had been super glued shut. He tried moving his tongue but it seemed foreign - like it wasn’t his own. 

This must be what an outer body experience feels like.

His whole body seemed to be like someone else’s. Trying to wiggle his toes, he felt it move slightly which was a good sign. Doing a mental analysis of his body, Nana felt he could only move his toes and a few fingers. Every other body part felt like it had been switched off and he had no control. His mind was foggy and it seemed as though he was slipping in and out of consciousness. 

In the distance, hushed conversations could be picked up from outside of the ICU. The conversation drew nearer and Nana could just about make out some of the words. 

“So it was a success?… - I see.. - Yes, we need to process the results quickly… - They would want to hear about it - Absolutely! The best minds of the current gener.. —.”

Click, clack, click, clack. 

The rapid pace of high heels stabbed the tiled marble floors grew nearer where it seemed to have stopped outside his door.

“Has he awoken?” A voice whispered.

Who is that?

“Greetings… — No, not yet, his vitals are stable - we’re continuing to monitor him.”

The person sighed. “Good, keep him in observation. We need to run further tests. Once he has awoken, send him through to the dormitory. Please, check on the…- Did you collect the data? … Excellent, these students should be… - No, no, continue with the tests, we need accuracy. These students are meant to be…”

“Understood, Ms… -”

With that, Ms Click clack had retreated and continued until he could hear it no more.

So it was a woman… 

“Ok Nana, I’m just going to give you something to wake up now. You’ll feel a little prick but you’ll be okay.”

Nana took a sharp inhale and then stiffened. 

“Sorry about that, you should be able to open your eye now.” The nurse said. 

Wait.

A warm, mellow feeling like honey surged and coursed through his body - quickly activating his senses, muscles and nerves - each cell reignited and reinvigorated. It felt like pleasure.

“There we are. Good morning Nana! I hope you’re doing okay. I’m Nurse Serwaah. You had the doctors and nurses in a right scare! You had irregular heartbeats but we were able to stabilize you, however, the surgery was a super success. I wouldn’t get up and start playing football anytime soon, but you will recover very quickly! I’m sure you would like to know what the Academy has gifted you for your augment.”

Nurse Adjoa beamed as though she just received all her presents at once for her birthday.

She walked briskly around the foot of the bed and came to where Nana was resting. She adjusted and plumped his pillows and gave him a sip of water.

“Now, you will need plenty of rest and to take these two tablets twice a day, before meals. This will help with the adjustments and calibration of your senses. It may make you feel groggy but aside from that, there are minimal side effects. I’m sure you are dying to take a look at yourself! One second, let me grab you a mirror.”

She clicked her figures and a holographic menu appear in front of her face. She pressed a few buttons in the air and a mirror flipped around to face Nana. “You look absolutely marvellous! I must say. The doctor’s finest work yet.” She moved closer to Nana, obserbving his face with pure marvel.

If Nana could scream, he would have bellowed and his screams would have pierced the entire ward as if someone had been violently attacked.

He was at a loss for words, his mouth couldn’t form sentences let alone sounds. He was awe-struck. His feelings lied between despair, confusion and fascination. 

What in the world have they done to me?!

***

 

A floor above Nana’s room, Kofi awoke with a banging headache as if he had been on the night out. It felt like he had been bulldozed by a team of rugby players. He slowly opened his eyes to realise he was no longer in the surgical suite. 

He was relocated somewhere else. The heavy smell of lemon hung in the air. White blinds were pulled down so it was difficult to see the outside - bright streams of light escaping through the blinds could be let through. Kofi put his hand to his forehead. Little beads of sweat trickled down the side of his head. He felt clammy and uncomfortable in his hospital gown. It felt like someone had turned on the thermostat to 100 degrees. Slowly taking in the findings of the room, he could see in bright blue lights, a sign that read “Kofi’s Kwame’s dorm.”

Christ, it’s bloody hot in here…

Looking around to survey his new surroundings, he noticed the room was spacious and furnished. A clean white desk hugged one corner of the room with a built-in shelf with a white leather office chair tucked underneath. There was a large mirror panel attached to the wall - possibly a wardrobe. The wall colour was a light grey with frosted blue lights surrounding the trim of the walls. A holographic panel with an illuminated text that Kofi couldn’t make out. 

Kofi tried to get up from the bed but with no luck. His body would not respond to his instructions. A faint knock could be heard from the door. A robotic male voice overhead came into the room, “Incoming visitor: Nurse Adjoa, accept or decline?” Kofi winced in pain but said, “Yeah, let her in.” The frosted white door slid open, revealing a plump black woman in dark green scrubs holding a tray of assorted paraphernalia: a needle, bandages, a syringe filled with pink fluid and a black remote. Her hair was wrapped with a black scarf with a purple flower pattern. She wore rimless glasses and had a kind face. Looking down, Kofi noticed she had no feet but appeared to be hovering. She looked at him with surprise and quickly changed her expression - something that Kofi was used to by now. As a professional nurse, she did well to not show her shock and surprise.

“G..Good afternoon Kofi. My name is Nurse Adjoa and I’ll be tending to your needs. She calmly hovered inside and placed the tray carefully on the desk in the corner of the room. “How are you feeling today? Any signs of sickness, nausea, headache?”

Kofi tried to sit upright, with success this time. “Yeah, I feel incredibly hot and I couldn’t control my movements. What did those rabbit doctors do to me!?” 

Nurse Adjoa took one of the syringes and the remote. She hesitated and asked, “Do you mind if I examine you? Kofi nodded weakly and she sat on the side of Kofi’s bed. Using the remote, she scanned Kofi’s forehead down to his collar. A small beep sounded and Nurse Adjoa adjusted her glasses to read the readings.

“Hmm, yes, you have a temperature but don’t be alarmed - it’s normal after surgery. I’m going to give you some medicine that will take care of the after effects. You’ll be right as rain.” Nurse Adjoa tried to smile but ended up looking like a crooked grin instead, not quite reaching her eyes which made Kofi feel more uneasy.

As she took the syringe, she examined the dosage carefully and finally asked, “Left or right?”

Kofi looked at her quizzically but quickly understood what she was referring to. (His left arm or right arm)

“Left please.”

“Very well, now you’ll feel a rushing sensation as well as a prick but all is normal. Please, relax yourself and t..take a deep breath.”

Kofi shuddered and took shallow breaths trying his best to relax his nerves but to no avail. In went the needle, small, painful but quick like a jab. The slow rush of adrenaline entered into his bloodstream, the liquid passed through and worked its way through his nervous system. Taking a huge gasp of breath, Kofi sat upright. It felt like a lighting shock, awaking him once more. It felt amazing, refreshing and new. He quickly sank back into the sheets of his bed, relaxed. 

“I believe that is the first initial kick. Y..you will feel another jolt into your system, that would be the augmentation and calibration.”

“You didn’t answer my previous question. What did those rabbit doctors do to me? I feel different and not in a good way.” Kofi asked.

Nurse Adjoa put the empty syringe on to the tray and proceeded to get up and head towards the door.

“Hello?! Excuse me, Nurse? You haven’t answer—”

Before she left, she slowly turned her head to look Kofi directly in his eyes. 

If Kofi felt the room was heated before, he felt a sliver of chill run down his spine.

She whispered something inaudible, making it difficult for Kofi to hear her. 

“You will soon find out.”

This time she didn’t stutter. 

With that, she hovered out of the door with the tray, with the door sliding completely shut. 

 

***

 

Next door, Vishnu could be heard snoring quietly in his recovery bed. Arian stood by the window looking out tersely below the academy. He saw a group of students walking briskly to their classes. Another group of students talking animatedly to a professor. He was wide awake and couldn’t seem to think straight. He raised his fingers to his temple and slowly massaged the residual remnants of a migraine out of his head. 

He turned his attention back to his brother, watching him sleep peacefully. His right arm was bandaged tight and was elevated by a mechanical sling. Arian moved over to his brother to examine him more closely, to see what his augment was…

Before he could have a proper look at the bandages, the frosted door slid open and in walked a tall white man wearing a white lab coat, holding a glass clipboard. Beside him was one of the Twins. (Arian couldn’t tell which one it was.) The man with the lab coat was heavily augmented with grey metallic robotic hands, antennae lines running from his forehead to his mouth. He had a bright green triangle by his left temple and sported a white visor that made his face glow. Arian eyed the man suspiciously but looked past him to watch the Twin. He stood, arms folded as if placed by the door like a machine gun, head scanning the room. His eyes were shielded with dark sunglasses making it impossible to see what he was looking at.

A broad smile appeared on the white man’s handsome, chiselled face as he spoke,“You must be Arian Mensah? I’m Dr. Needle. I was the surgeon who performed yours and your brother’s surgery. I have come to examine you both to see how you are recovering. Mind, you should be in bed resting.” Giving Arian an impertinent look, he strode into the room to peer at Vishnu more closely. He touched his green triangle and his visor projected a beam of orange light that brightened up Vishnu’s face. Vishnu only ever moved slightly, stirring in his sleep. He towered over Vishnu and slowly went from his face down to his bandaged arm and then to his feet. Dr Needle completed his scan and looked objectively at his glass clipboard. Instantly, words scrawled on his clipboard in purple like magic. Arian looked on in amazement, not daring to move from the window. 

Looking up from his clipboard, Dr Needle passed his clipboard to the Twin and double tapped his wrist. With a tiny whir, his index finger peeled itself outward, revealing a single pointed needle. Arian’s eyes became wide like saucepans and fear spread through him. He choked, “What, what are you doing?”

Ignoring him, Dr Needle came around the bed and went to the side where a plastic fluid bag hung above Vishnu’s bed. He injected his needle finger into the bag and the fluid began to steadily change colour: going from a cloudy white to a bright neon green. Vishnu yawned and still did not awaken. “This fluid - pointing with his free hand to the green fluid - is going to help Vishnu combat the effects of phantom limb and help with calibration of the new senses.” 

He took his needle finger out of the fluid bag and tapped his wrist again where the needle returned itself back into a normal metallic finger.

“Now then, I will examine you. Come and sit on your bed so I can take a look at your skull.” Not wanting to be defiant, Arian tentatively went back to his bed where he swung his legs on the bed and sat upright against the plush, plump pillows. 

“Let’s see. Your augment is placed at the back of your head. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you were to really feel around. Could you lie forwards so I can closely examine, thank you.”

Arian did as he was told. He couldn’t see anything except his nightgown which had cloud patterns on it. Taking steady breaths, he let the doctor get on with his examination.

“Very good, do you feel any pain? Tingling feeling? Numbness? Cottonmouth?”

“Um, no, I think I feel okay.” 

“Excellent… Examination finished. You can sit backwards and be comfortable” said Dr Needle.

Arian rubbed the back of his neck from the strain. “Dr Needle, what happens next?”

Dr Needle got up from the bed and took his clipboard back from the Twin, who was still standing, planted by the door. 

“You and the rest of the augmented students will be transported back to your dormitories, given a few more days to rest and then you will go to a class called Augmentation 101 where Professor Kane will teach you about your augments, how they work for your tailored lessons and personal uses. Now, get plenty of rest Mr Mensah, you are going to need it. If you feel any symptoms, call a nurse immediately.” Arian looked puzzled. “How do I do that?” 

“You just tap your wrist and say - Viola, Nurse for Arian - a nurse will know where to come and find you to treat you. Pretty simple, eh? Viola is the school’s AI system so she can help with any needs and queries.” Dr Needle grinned. “I helped with the additional software updates so the nurses and doctors could be added to her system.”

“Anyway, you go to bed sir. Goodbye, Mr Mensah.”

With that, he smiled positively showing a row of gleaming, white teeth and left the room with the Twin. 

No doubt, Arian looked at his wrist and noticed a small green rectangle outline. It pulsed and soon realised it was rhythmic with his heartbeat.

Pretty cool. Arian thought.

Arian lifted himself up to get to his bed covers which were silk smooth and looked over at his brother once more. Vishnu still looked peaceful as he slept, unbeknownst to him that he had gotten one of the coolest augments. 

Arian turned to look at the ceiling. A thousand questions zooming in his mind at once, making it difficult to switch off his brain.

Soon, he fell into a deep, sound sleep to the sound of Vishnu's loud snoring.


 

***

Purple and blue lights twinkled in the evening sky as busy passengers hustled themselves on the shuttle bus, making their way home from a long day of work. Flashing neon signs showing off a new energy drink advert. 

Back in her dormitory, Akua was the only one who did not seem to be afflicted by the augment side effects. She sat in a leather chair, facing her large open window, in deep thought. 

She tentatively touched her forehead and winced from the touch. She only had a small brown plaster that was over her surgical implant.

I should take it easy…

Slowly, she got to her feet and went to close the blinds.

Touching the cool window glass, the glass reflected her imprint, scrawling details of her information. Akua jumped back a little, startled by what was appearing on the glass.

It seemed even the windows were etched with technology. 

It showed back her birthday, enrollment information at the academy and her previous school history. She went back to the bed but then suddenly realised something. Akua remembered that she needed to check her social media. How long has it been since her last post? Updating her followers? Checking what the hottest trends were? 

“Damn, I hope I haven’t lost any followers…” mumbled Akua.

She looked around the room and noticed her belongings in the corner of the room, laid on a white leather chair. By the chair on the bedside table, she saw her phone placed there. She went over to grab it and checked her phone for updates. 

Instinctively, Akua knew something was off. She went to her socials to swipe for updates but no service.

“What’s going on? Viola, what’s happened with the service?” Akua asked.

Viola’s soothing voice filled the space. 

“Apologises Ms Sinclair, I am currently updating the school’s security and maintenance so all internet and cellular service will be unavailable between 22:00pm and 5:00am. Excuse the inconvenience. Your services will resume shortly. 

Akua let out a long, troubled sigh. She forgot she needed to also call her mother and father. Her mother would be worried. Or would she? Her mother couldn’t ship her to the academy soon enough. She always favoured her sisters, Afia and Abena.

Suddenly, a loud thud came from outside. Akua froze, craning to hear. The noises continued for a minute. There was loads of shuffling outside. She inched closer to her door and pressed her ear to it. She could hear footsteps retreating and a rustling noise. 

What was that? 

With a new sudden interest and curiosity, she wanted to find out what it was. 

Phone in hand, she touched the glass panel by the door and it slid open. Akua crept out. All she had on was her nightgown, her phone and her growing curiosity. She glanced at her phone to check the time. 

Midnight.

Was the noise worth investigating over her beauty sleep? 

The short answer was no. 

However, Akua wanted to know what the sounds were. From remembering what her sisters said about the academy, there were always strange occurrences going on but they never saw anything. The hallway was dark but there were small blue lights that lit the hallway. She moved silently and quickly trying to keep up with the footsteps ahead. 

From down the hallway, she could make out a tall shadow. Akua hurried towards the figure, hugging the walls as close as possible to avoid being seen. The academy hallways were large, twisting and turning. If you were not familiar with the layout, you could easily get lost. 

Finally, she reached an end and stopped around the corner. She strained to hear but now it sounded like two people's voices. She peaked around the corner and saw the figures around a gurney. Something looked to be hanging off it but she couldn’t quite see what it was. There was a long sheet that was on top of the trolley. One of their backs was to her but the other was facing the gurney. It was hard to make out the faces due to the dim lighting. They were wearing hazmat suits without helmets. She could hear them speaking in hushed whispers.

“Ah, you know she had very good genes. Such a shame to see her go.” One voice said.

“Ah! Not all of dem can handle these changes to de body. There are better ones dis year. She was not as good. She reached her peak so you know what the academy must do…” another voice said. 

“Why can’t we just harvest the remains and create our own modded version? We can make big, big money! Then we can leave dis place. If we can make dat mod then these tings can be the ones working. Not us!  Am tired of working in this place. I want to retire quick and chop life.”

“Are you dey craze!? Charley, if you-know-who catches us doing that, we won’t have breath in our bodies, I can promise you! Did you hear about the last guy who tried? Vanished! Disappeared! Nobody ever saw that person again, charley. One person said they tink he is in de basement. My friend, please. I don’t want to end up like a vegetable. Let’s just take dis one and go.”

“Ah, my friend, you get scared too eazy! These rich people always makin money and we dey go be poor all de time. You need to think bigger!”

“Move my friend, we must go! We’re already late as it is!”

The footsteps hurried and continued out of earshot until only the last sound of sliding doors could be heard.

Frozen to the root of her spot, she was unable to move. She felt shivers running down her spine and goosebumps prickling her skin. Trying to process everything she heard made Akua’s surgical mark throb in pain. She wanted to vomit. 

What kind of place is this? Isn’t this supposed to be an academy?

Remains? Genes? Harvest?

Akua knew coming here was a mistake. She needed to return back to her room and erase the conversation she overheard out of her mind. 

Taking in a deep breath, she shook some life back into her limbs and quickly ran back to her room. Not caring if she was heard, she sprinted with full force. Once she returned, she threw her phone on to her bed, turned the corner into the bathroom and just about made it to the toilet bowl before puking all what was left in her body. 

Now she knew why curiosity killed the cat.

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