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To Protect and Serve - Ch.3 Posted 3/15/2019


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Thanks to Dredlifter for the idea suggestion of this little thing - or maybe it will wind up being a big thing.  I haven’t written a story like this in a long time - at least 4 years. I hope you will bear with me for a slow burn introduction here and getting my “verbal” chops back into shape.  But the fun stuff will start coming next chapter.

I am open to any and all feedback as I want to re-hone my writing abilities.  Critiques are welcome

--------

To Protect and Serve - Chapter 1 - The First Morning

Prelude:

Just imagine - You’re standing at attention with your peers in your best Class-A Uniform.  All around you in the auditorium your friends, family, and fellow officers who can come are here to see the solemn occasion.  A freshly earned, freshly shined badge has just been pinned on your chest by the Sheriff. You raise your right hand and take the oath.  The oath is a bit different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but we boil its meaning down to one phrase - “To Protect and Serve.” So many have taken the oath.  Some who took it did little things that made a big difference, while some risked their lives and paid the ultimate price. And some … well … some are special. This is the story of one of those special ones - no, he is even more than that.  Though it was not his intention nor mine, he went beyond special. How do I know? He saved me. He has given me a life I could never have dreamed possible that first early morning. And what happened to him? Well, a transformation that is better in the telling.

To those who take the oath as seriously as he did; To those who give it a new and bigger meaning as he did; to those who change more than they can imagine by repeating those words as he did, this story is dedicated. This is the story of what could happen if you could protect and serve many thousands of people, and just one man, me, in ways beyond your wildest imagination.  ~ Gabriel York

-----

A deceptively small man hung his duty shirt onto a dry cleaners hanger and placed it in his locker.  As he stood bare chested in the cool air, he appeared to be hiding his body, but he had nothing to be ashamed of - having a lithe but very tight build under that shirt.  Nicely shaped, mounded pecs accompanied hard small orange sized biceps. A tight 6-pack graced his lower abdomen to an impossibly small looking waist. He was way better than most men of his age, no “dad bod” here to be sure.  But, the man always felt self-conscious in the locker room despite the room being empty. He wasn’t one of THEM, something that had haunted him since high school. He lifted one booted foot and then the other onto a wooden bench before him. Loosening the laces and pulling the side zipper, he removed each boot.  

He held them in his hands like precious artifacts for just a moment, remembering the first time he put these on.  Soon it would be his last, he mused. His time could go on as long as he wanted. But -- he questioned why. What had he done to stay on? What good had he really done? REALLY made a difference?  

It took but a few more minutes for him to put on his civilian duty clothes (a departmental polo, slacks,and loafers), secure his badge to his belt, and close his locker.  Most locker rooms were replete with all sorts of combination locks, but not here. A few men and most of the women officers used them, but it wasn’t exactly necessary. You couldn’t be in a much safer place after all. Deputy Sergeant John Declann closed his locker for the millionth time and went to collect his personal sidearm from the gun locker clerk.  

He had no sooner than entered the hallway from the locker room, he heard a truly tremendous booming upper bass voice:

“WHOA, ONE SIDE DECLANN.”  

Declann immediately pulled back into the doorway and looked up … and up, to see 5 men in a tight formation with shields and cell-entry equipment.  Each one of them was every bit of 6 foot 4 inches plus - although tactical boots always made you look taller than you were. They were more like 6 foot 2 without them - but still, they all out-weighed John by at least 60 pounds of muscle. At his 5 foot 7 inches in height and in normal shoes, he felt positively TINY seeing them pass by. That was sort of the point of those uniforms - to try and intimidate anyone who saw what was coming - and it always did, at least it did Declann. They were in helmets and wore thick padded vests, under which were black t-shirt with black BDUs and those boots below.  While those clothes were technically “loose,” they did little to hide every oversized muscle in their massive bodies. Gigantic arms stretched forth from sleeves that seemed to be straining to the breaking point. 2 pairs of arms were thick, powerlifter looking, and 3 more were supremely cut muscle.

The CERT - Cell Extraction and Response Team - blew past him looking like they were heading to Mary-pod - the maximum security section. No doubt it was to remove an offender from a cell for morning counts who did not want to be removed.  There was no question, he WOULD be removed, no matter what it took. The injury inflicted was entirely the offender’s choice. And, that amount of muscle and its overwhelming power could do plenty of that.

Declann had tried out for both the CERT and SWAT teams years ago.  But at his 165 lb, it was deemed he just did not have the physical size necessary.  “You have all the skills needed and more Deputy Declann,” he had been told. “You should be proud of that.  But some other officers just beat you out in the scores. And we need you on the streets. That is where you belong.” Funny, he thought in a moment of jealousy. It was always those guys who were of larger than life proportions that got the spots, even if their skills were not as good as his.  

After the group had passed, Declann walked down the hall toward the sallyport and stopped. He always did it at times like this, halting at the Officer’s Gym. He looked inside.  It was rather quiet, normal at 0545 and shift change. Still, he could see some of the remnants of workouts by the big guys on the force. 45 pound plates left on the sides of incline bench press rack.  What looked like 5 plates on a side on the bar on the squat rack. Dozens on the leg press sled. It was a bit of a mess, in truth, but most well used gyms were. Now, Declann was no physical slouch. He always kept in shape and his skills honed as the primary martial arts instructor for the Sheriff’s Office.  He could have done well in that room, even though he was pushing 40 years old. Could have grown. But, he sighed and went on. There was just a part of him that never wanted to face big men in the gym. The injustice of being mocked for his smaller size and unfamiliarity with the equipment the one time he went in blazed in him still all these years later.  He guessed the big men thought it was good natured fun, but it hurt Declann deeply. So, he kept to his body weight fitness room and small dojo set up in the garage at home. That made him feel less conspicuous. When it came to them, John always saw himself as a small man in boots that were a size too big. And yet - to so many others, he wasn’t that at all.  He was everything that made police work an honorable profession.

---

John Declann had wanted to be a police officer for as long as he could remember.  Since his youngest days, he had been fascinated by police dramas on TV, how they always seemed to catch the bad guy no matter the odds.  How they always saved people in distress. In his mind, there was no better calling. No better way to spend his life. He had the mind to be anything he wanted.  He excelled in most subjects in school and was a top flight musician. But, those pursuits were not where he heart lay. He was a cop at heart by his teenage years, and he did everything he could to prepare himself.  

He took JROTC through high school, where he picked up his interest in martial arts and started Aikido lessons.  Though he wasn’t the best team sports, he blasted through the competition at his dojo. He became quite fit from the military style calisthenics workouts he adopted during ROTC summer camps.  And, that fitness matched perfectly with his blooming skills with his hands and feet on the mats. Before high school was over, his featured had matured into those of a very fit, handsome young man with striking brown eyes.  And he had his first degree black belt, the first degree of many.

It took a nearly a year after graduating high school to get his first small town commission to the force.  He spent his first 18 months in the jails, and then took and passed his Colorado POST exams. He had been a road officer ever since.  Now, he was a Sergeant in the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office - an area not unknown for large scale crimes as it held the University of Colorado.  “The Berkeley of the East” though had its full measure of minor offenses. But the area wasn’t exactly the worst gang spots in Denver either. He had for served with true distinction for nearly two decades since - being decorated for bravery multiple times for saving civilians lives under fire.  He had saved those intent on suicide. He had even delivered a baby once in a convenience store, and the story made the local news. He had had plenty of hands-on run ins with offenders, but he gave way more than he got, never having much more than a bruise or a black eye on occasion. He just never saw what the community and his immediate superiors did - a good man, serving the people Boulder and the kids of the University the best way he knew how.

---

John went out to his car - an unmarked Dodge - cranked it, and began the slow crawl toward the Turnpike then Wheat Ridge.  One of the things he learned in his own initial officer training long ago was to never live in the county you worked in. It could always lead to problems with local offenders.  So, it was up and over the Flatirons toward home. Even though traffic volume was already increasing as it spread toward Denver in the morning rush, his mind wandered as if on empty roads. He made the necessary turns though the city and came proximate to the University entrances, but was running his schedule through his mind. He was due for a weigh in at the doc’s today.  And they usually took his measurements too. Height, waistline, all that stu --

John’s senses caught something in the barely lit dawn. Someone moving way too fast to be normally jogging to the right of his car.  Moving toward campus. John slowed his vehicle and his brain went into observation mode. It captured the scene in moments with his practiced eyes and mind.  A young man -- looking to be just outside of college age but could still belong to the University. Short, black hair. Trimmed beard. White button down shirt and navy slacks.  Looked like there was some money invested in those clothes, certainly not cheap. Behind him, perhaps eight or so paces, was running - and running faster than the first - a white young man, shaved head, jeans and ratty t-shirt, tatted with jailhouse tattoos that stood out even under the fading street lamps.  And, then John caught sight of a gun in the rear waistband of the second’s jeans. Semi-auto by the outline.

Instinct took over. John turned his car in an instant, hit the flasher toggle for his lights, and wound with wildly fast, yet practiced precision toward the danger.  Less than 20 seconds later, John pulled his car to a stop where his instincts said he could cut this off.

“Boulder County Sheriff's Office -- ON THE GROUND NOW”  John yelled as he leapt from his car and drew his weapon virtually simultaneously.  

The running suspect didn’t listen, just as John had expected.  He instead broke his pursuit of the well-dressed man and taken off toward a side alleyway. But, John was good at his work.  The offender was fast, but John - was FASTER. He holstered his weapon as he calculated his movements nearly autonomously. He had chosen his intercept point well.  John calculated the takedown, knowing an almost undisputable, universal law - 95 percent of offenders have no idea of how to fight, and the remaining 5% seldom need to fight.  And this one looked like the former. It took a few seconds, but just a few, for the whole pursuit to be over. Exactly two PPCT strikes and a normal compliance take down and the suspect wa on his back, with John twisting his arms and putting the handcuffs on.  He never even had to hurt more than the punk’s pride.

Once secured, John kept his knee in place just under the lower shoulder blades, cuffed arms resting on his quad, knowing a bodyweight advantage and leverage would be critical with this man who slightly outweighed him. “What’s your name?” John demanded as he patted down the suspect and quickly removed a 9mm weapon and several baggies of what looked like methamphetamine.

“Fuck you” was the response.  

John smiled a bit and gave a half chuckle under his breath.  He loved this a bit too much when it happened, and some mischievous streak in him just drove him to do it.  “OK, Mister Fuk Yu. I am placing you under arrest for possession of an illegal firearm and possession of controlled substances.  You have the right to remain silent …” John mirandized the “Mr. Fuck,” pulled him up to his feet, and maneuvered him the few yards to his car. He put the offender in the back seat and locked the door of his unmarked.  The guy was going nowhere. Now, to more important matters.

John made his way toward the young man being pursued -  who had by now stopped and was almost collapsed on the sidewalk. Declann withdrew his cell, called 911, and requested uniformed officers to his location.  He was upon the man on the sidewalk just as he hung up. John immediately knelt down to do a quick assessment of his condition. There were no obvious signs of trauma at the first once over. He then took a more careful look at the victim’s features.  While he certainly wasn’t of student age, he was still under 30, John guessed. And, he was a very nice looking under 30 to boot. Blue eyes setting off dark, intense features. Old enough to just have the barest hint of a wrinkle at the eye but nothing else. John noted a rather slim body - the size of his own would have been were it not for his training in Aikido and Krav Maga.  

John felt a twinge of attraction.Yes, John was bisexual, but no one cared among his superiors anymore.  Besides, he had always kept that part of himself separate when on duty. “You OK Sir? I can’t see any obvious injuries.  Do you need an ambulance?”John asked as he came and sat down at the man’s level.

“Thank you . . . . officer, thank . . . you.” The man panted in reply with a pronounced British accent.  “I was . . . just going toward my . . . lab . . . after my tea . . . when this fellow . . . started chasing me screaming at . . me. ” The young man was now gathering his breath, becoming easier to understand. John was a bit surprised to hear that English accent coming from him.  Not unheard of, but still unusual in Boulder.

“Did he assault you in any way?”

The  Englishman finally looked up to see John’s slightly older but obviously concerned and kind face.  He visibly relaxed as he looked into John’s light brown eyes. “No, he never caught me but he was close.  I am not exactly in running shorts and shoes here. But thanks to you, I’ll be OK. I do not know what would have happened if you had not arrived when you did.”

“With what I found, I suspect he wanted to mug you.  You are rather well dressed for campus, if I may observe.  And, forgive me, if he heard you accent, you may have looked like an quick target as a tourist.  When the uniform officers get here, you will need to give a statement to them, or you can give it to me if you prefer.  We need to make sure this scumbag gets what he deserves.”

“Of course.  Anything I can do to assist, although I would be much happier speaking to you.” the man said giving just a hint of a smile.  It was then that the uniformed officers in their black and white vehicles showed up. John excused himself for a moment, let the uniforms know what was going on, and allowed them to take the offender back to the jail for booking.  John then returned to the man still sitting on the sidewalk. Pulling out a notebook he kept on him for times like this, John got all the pertinent information as he had done thousands of times before. Name, description of what happened, when, and why, if he knew.  Any details the young man, who he had come to know as Gabriel York, may have remembered before, during, and after. As he took the statement, John became even more convinced this was an attempted mugging, perhaps for more drug money, maybe even more if that weapon came into play.  

Knowing he had all he needed, John said, “Finally, is there a way we can contact you if we have further questions. The staff from the District Attorney's office will be sure to want to speak with you about testimony if it comes to that.  Although with the evidence we have, this one will probably plea. This is not his first time in jail.”

Gabriel reached into his pocket for a very expensive-looking leather wallet and removed a business card.  “This is my lab contact information. I am easiest to reach either here on campus or with my secretary. My other lab is ...a… well ... it is easier to reach me here.  Again I can’t thank you enough, Sergeant.”

“Believe me, Dr. York, it was my pleasure.  I am just glad you are safe and sound.” John said. “Are you OK to go on your own or would you like me to escort you to your lab? I would be happy to do so.”

“Thank you sir, but I think I’ll be fine.  My lab is just over the hill in the Biological Sciences building.” Gabriel replied.

“OK” John said, handing Gabriel a card of his own with his name, rank, and contact information on it.  “This is my card. If you need anything or remember anything else, please do not hesitate to call me anytime, day or night.”

‘Of course. Sergeant Declann.”  The Englishman arose with a friendly hand from John.  Almost as an afterthought as he was leaving, York turned around. “Oh, Sergeant Declann, by the way.  I do ….ah… certain work down at the Federal Center in Denver. I will have to report this incident to my superiors there and to the British consulate.  In case there is testimony or something as you said. They may wish to speak with you. Just to make sure. You understand?”

John nodded.  Ah, he works with the feds as an international scholar of some kind, and the red tape must be dealt with. “Of course.  No problem at all. I’m proximate to the Federal Center half the time anyway.” York nodded an ascent and turned again to walk away.

John stood a moment watching - and admiring -  Dr. York move until he was sure he was alright AND that he was moving toward the Biology building.  He turned around and began to make his way back to his car. As he did, he looked down at the card:

 

Gabriel York, MD. PhD., FACS

Research Director/Professor of Medicine

Advanced Bio-neurological Applications Project

University of Colorado School of Medicine

 

Hmmm, John thought.  He looked a damned sight young to be in such a prestigious job, a full professor under 30 and with two doctorates at least.  And a fellow of the ACS -- so why talk to the Consulate? John’s “detective sensor” started to sound off in his mind. This advanced applications thing wasn’t a program he was familiar with, but there were so many new research projects on campus these days.  But, as soon as the “alert” came, he let it go. Probably a government grant given what he said about the Federal Center.

John was reviewing the incident in his mind for his own after action report as he pulled onto the highway.  Suddenly, there was a loud roar of a horn and air brakes. John never even saw the tractor trailer that plowed into his car, crumpling it in an instant like so much tissue paper and driving it 30 yards down the highway.

***

Two Hours Later

***

Trauma room one at the University of Colorado Hospital was abuzz with activity.  At least a dozen doctors, nurses, and specialist technologists in yellow plastic smocks and shields hovered over a trauma bed doing a myriad of tasks to the man laying there.  

“What do we have?” the lead trauma surgeon said as he came into the room and took up control of the life-saving operation.

On of the smocked figures raised up and stepped back, raising his shield.  “John Declann, caucasian male, age 39. Boulder County Sheriff’s Deputy. MVA - car versus tractor/trailer. Passenger was in a seatbelt with airbags deployed but required extraction by fire-rescue. Initial assessment shows superficial cranial abrasions, with most likely a simple concussion.  No evidence of other cranial, brain, or upper spinal injuries. Seat belt bruising pattern is highly indicative of internal organ disruption, but nothing so far on physical examination and plain films of the abdomen. Lacerated and collapsed left lung, reinflated with chest tube. Pneumothorax proximate to same lung injury also responding. Initial x-rays show compromised T-12 vertebral body and possible pelvic fracture.  No apparent lower limb trauma beyond cuts and bruises from extrication from the vehicle. CT scans are coming up now for the spinal and pelvic injury areas. This was a driver’s side T-bone crash. I think that this guy’s level of fitness is why we’re talking about saving his life and not pronouncing him. ” the lead resident efficiently rattled off.

The lead surgeon took a look at the patient, and agreed with the resident’s assessment.  John was alive because of his trained, flexible, body and more than a little random chance.  But what kind of life was it going to be? The doctor walked over to the computer terminal screens and pulled up the CT scans.  The pelvis showed a simple left side Ilium fracture. Non-displaced. Something the orthopods could deal with easy enough. He then flipped to the scan of John’s spine --  and frowned. “Fuck,” he said under his breath as he looked. He sat down on a stool and zoomed, in, out, rotated, and closely examined the different views provided by the technology.  The burst fracture was unmistakable and at precisely the worst spot for leg function. As he walked back to John, the doctor barked orders to the residents and nurses, while he removed an ink pen from his pocket.  He ran the pen up first one foot and then the other. Goddamnit, he thought. The veteran doc’s heart sunk even more.

“Get neurosurg here stat.  Tell them severe impact, burst fracture at T-12, CT visualization and reflex response indicative of cord injury.”  The room went silent for a moment before carrying on. It was always hard to treat an officer. Much less for this.  The supervising physician turned and again just looked at the radiology. The soft tissue injuries were no walk in the park, but were easily fixable, recoverable in just a few weeks, the pelvis in a couple of months, except …. that.  There was no hope for that, in his experience. This man would be paralyzed.

Five minutes later the head of neurosurgery looked at the same CT scans, and came to the same conclusion.  No hope. They could do an exploratory, check and see if by some miracle there was just pressure on the cord from a fragment, but not likely.  Better to just do a vertebral stabilization with the orthopods, but his chances to recover function …

Declann had been stabilized and was ready for transfer to have his lung laceration repaired.  As he was about to be moved, another man in a white coat burst into the trauma room. One look from him toward John, and his eyes moistened.

“I...I...can’t believe it.”  the black haired man wept at the side of the bed.  “I had to be sure.” The man almost looked skyward, “Why him?”  Gabriel tenderly wiped a finger down John’s cheek.

“Gabriel?” the head of neuro looked up. “What are you doing here? Do you know this man?”

“This man, he saved my life this morning, not even four hours ago.  Kept me from getting mugged by this man with a gun. Everyone heard the crash and when I saw that the wreckage was his car.  Is he going to be OK?” Gabriel was out of breath and had obviously lost clinical detachment between the events of this morning and the shock of seeing the officer who had been so kind and patient with him lying there.  He would have been removed if treatment were still going on, but it was basically complete save moving him to OR. The two attendings just nodded toward the computer screens with the radiology still on it. Gabriel walked from John’s head side, looked, and was overcome with remorse and guilt.  Had he just been at his normal time, 15 minutes later, none of this would have happened. But, he just HAD to check on a minor experiment. And now, this man lay here because of him. Gabriel zoomed in to the machine’s maximum sensitivity. He looked again and again.

Through a choking voice, Gabriel looked around and almost whispered. “Jack, can you send me these scans please? To my secondary lab.”

The lead neurosurgeon looked horrified, searching for a reason not to. “Gabriel.  You can’t be serious. You know I can’t do that. It violates protocol, federal law--”

Gabriel cut him off, almost angrily “Jack you know I can take care of that with one call to Washington.”

“What are you going to do?” Jack asked, never having seen such anger in the young, brilliant surgeon and scientist.

“IF I can, if there is anything I can do, I am going to try and help this man.’

“You can’t have a man as a lab r--.  I can’t sanc---” Jack stumbled.

Gabriel stood to his full height, taking on an almost military bearing. “You know I can and will go over your head if I have to.  I will have him removed if I must.” Gabriel took a breath and seemed to calm a bit. “Jack I am not promising that I can or will do anything, I do not know if there is anything to do.  But I have to try. I owe it to him. He is here because of me. I have to try or I’ll never forgive myself.”

Jack knew Gabriel could follow through on his threats in an instant.  He had seen some small manifestations of Gabriel’s connections to political power before, and he knew that interference in hospital functions was the very least of what he could do. As much as Jack detested it, with this kind of anger Gabriel could bring down the mountain on top of his whole hospital.  But, as it was, there was nothing anyone could do for Officer Declann, not even York. Jack just silently waved his fingers in a gesture of defeat, nodded an ascent, and transferred access to Gabriel as primary attending physician.

“Thank you Jack.  I owe you about 10 times over for this.”

“I WILL HOLD YOU TO THAT,” the older surgeon replied, his voice suddenly sharpened. “And I insist on one thing.  Before you present him any of those things you do that I do not have a clue about, you will at least get his consent.”

Gabriel looked like he had been shot himself and his voice shook, “I would NEVER do anything to harm him.”  York turned on a heel and left the room, walking out of the ER doors, and toward his car in the parking lot.  As soon as he was in the vehicle with the door closed, he pulled from his pocket an encrypted cell phone with just one number it could access, locked to his fingerprint.

A male voice answered in military precision, “Yes, Doctor York?”

“Codeword Ariana.  I want the full computer network prepped for simulator study based on some CT scans that will be coming from CU Trauma ER shortly.  Run the program with emergent parameters and stand by to report when I get there. Not a proof of concept level scan, Don, but full cellular level calculations. I am leaving the hospital now.  We have 24 hours at the most to complete simulations. And...ah.. Don. This is important to me, personally.”

“Yes SIR,” the sharp voice on the other end said.  Gabriel could not quite understand what he was feeling, this pull toward this man.  He didn’t know the man existed six hours ago. Sure, there was guilt and anger and sadness.  But, he just could not remove from his mind those eyes he saw this morning. Those haunted, caring brown eyes.  Something about him. This John Declann. He did not know what. But he saw it in his eyes. He deserved more than this, and Gabriel would find out why.  He would make it happen, he willed it to happen as he drove toward the freeway. This good man would walk again.

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I'm frankly astounded at the detail in the medical parlance here.  It isn't easy to pull off without becoming heavy and too detailed.  You do it well here.

There is detail here in your descriptions that bring us into the mindset of Declann. The scenes before he leaves work, looking into the gym and feeling that he is overmatched to enter (to be a beginner - we've all been there at one point or another), the massive powerful men of the extraction unit moving past with the inner dialog in his mind exposing some deep insecurities, and that impulse to do Good, with a capital G.  

Then there is the doc.  There is a lot to him, many secrets I would say. And I hope we learn much more about him.  

You've set up the mystery well and accelerated the pace of the plot at the end which contrasted nicely with the more deliberate character development at the beginning.

For not having written in 4 years, I would never have known that.  You hide your dusty writing chops very well. 

And we should thank Dredlifter for the idea suggestions too. Good writing is so often a product of at least minor collaborations, yes?   

Please, proceed with the next bit when you are able.  

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4 hours ago, SeaMusc said:

I'm frankly astounded at the detail in the medical parlance here.  It isn't easy to pull off without becoming heavy and too detailed.  You do it well here.

There is detail here in your descriptions that bring us into the mindset of Declann. The scenes before he leaves work, looking into the gym and feeling that he is overmatched to enter (to be a beginner - we've all been there at one point or another), the massive powerful men of the extraction unit moving past with the inner dialog in his mind exposing some deep insecurities, and that impulse to do Good, with a capital G.  

Then there is the doc.  There is a lot to him, many secrets I would say. And I hope we learn much more about him.  

You've set up the mystery well and accelerated the pace of the plot at the end which contrasted nicely with the more deliberate character development at the beginning.

For not having written in 4 years, I would never have known that.  You hide your dusty writing chops very well. 

And we should thank Dredlifter for the idea suggestions too. Good writing is so often a product of at least minor collaborations, yes?   

Please, proceed with the next bit when you are able.  

Thank you so much.

I must admit that the medical aspects of this were just things that I was able to hear over time when I had duties where I was in an ERs and they would bring people in or accidents that I worked.  Use the same word enough times and it sticks (and our friend google, lol).  

Given the quality of stories like your Synergy and Dredlifter's Elongro I sort of felt a bit intimidated by doing this.  I can write rather quickly when I am inspired and can "see" what happens in my mind, but I often feel that my language isn't what it should be.  I am only writing what guys like you have put into my mind to write. If I can even evoke a portion of the emotion you have, then I will consider this a great success.  So, thank you for writing some truly special stories that have inspired me.

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Wow.  That was amazing. In one chapter I am sucked into this world and care deeply for the characters.  The level of detail is astounding and give no indication that you haven't penned anything in a few years.  

I am so excited to read where this will go.  For right now I want nothing more than John to recover.  

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Brilliantly engaging first part to set things up and get us all drawn in, Bradspencer!  Love the detail you give both in Declann's background and your immersive use of technical phrases in your different settings.   ?

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Chapter 2 - The Miracle of Denver

***

48 hours later -

***

Whirrr…..shhhhhhh.  Whirrr …….shhhhhh. Beep.  Beep. Beep-Beep-Beep.

All around the large semi-circular room, there was constant noise from the medical machines.  Breathing machines, movement monitors, heart monitors, IV machines. Sixteen beds all facing a large central nurses station in the Neurological ICU. Staff dressed in all manner of multi-colored scrubs moved about making notes and updating orders.  And laying in the middle of it all, John Declann was awake and silently afraid -- afraid of the future.

“Look at them,” he thought bitterly.

“Look at them move.  

“Like it was nothing.

John almost wanted to scream.  It was so much. Too much. Too much noise.  Too many people. Too much chaos. He just wanted quiet. He would give his right le--

“But I don’t have a right leg to give anymore,”  John spat out in his thoughts. He raised his head from his pillow and looked down.  For what must have been the hundredth time since he awakened, he started again with the same useless ritual.  

He willed his legs to move.  Nothing.

“MOVE” he thought.  Nothing.

“FUCKING MOVE DAMN IT.”  Nothing.

From rage to a plaintive wail. “Please … please … move.” Nothing.

“Please……” Nothing.

John’s head fell back again to his bed, and a single tear rolled from his eye toward the pillow.  “Why, why, why won’t they move?” He begged. But then he could always hear the doctor’s voice as clear as he had heard it yesterday:

 

“I’m very sorry Mr. Declann, but there was just nothing that we could medically do.  The damage is just too extensive. Although you may get some sensation back with intensive therapy… I am so sorry, but you are paralyzed from the waist down.”

 

John fumed at those words.  He spat on them, cursed them. His rage could have filled the entire room to overflowing if he could have let it out.  All he had ever done was try and help people. All he had ever done was try and make a difference. And this is how God or the Universe or whatever thanks him?  It makes him an invalid.

Helpless.

Hopeless.  

“Why didn’t I just die in that crash?” John thought.  “It would have been far more merciful.” Maybe he should just fully “retire” when they let him out of here.  Would whatever this is - it certainly isn’t a life - even be worth living ….”

As he lay there swallowed by the pain of what he could never feel again, two young men wearing the colors of hospital transport approached John’s bed.  They leaned over and said, “Mr. Declann, we are going to move you to a private room just down the way here. The nurses aides need to help you get clean, and we want to preserve your privacy down here.”

“Fuck my privacy,” John spat out weakly. “What do I need it for now anyway?”

“Mr Declann, please?” the one on the left asked.

John relented.  Resignation swallowed him as he shook his head no, but said, “OK.  Just do what you have to do.” With the efficiency of hands as practiced at this work as Declann’s had once been at his, the two young men disconnected the monitors, released the wall oxygen and pushed John perhaps 50 feet down a corridor and into a small, private room.  The two transport men maneuvered John into the center of the darkened room, then pushed his headboard against the wall. They assured him that someone would be with him in a moment. Then, the two just left.

John looked around a bit confused.  This looked like a hospital room you might see anywhere - a computer terminal, multi-colored plugs in the walls, but - nothing else.  He couldn’t see anything that might be used to wash him and --

There was a small knock at the door. “Ah, that must be them.” John thought and swallowed his pride.  There was no use fighting this. The door pushed inward to reveal three semi-shadows silhouetted against the bright hallway light.   

“Hello Sergeant Declann.  May we come in?” As the voice spoke, someone raised the lights inside the room.  That voice, the accent, the lower tenor range of it. The black hair, the eyes? No, but --

“Dr. York?!” John asked out of shock as Gabriel entered the room.  What astounded John even more was that York was flanked on either side by two gorilla-sized men in navy blue suits.  He was certain these were some sort of guards - police, military, something - but hell, why would York need that?

Gabriel walked up to the side of John’s bed while one of the men pulled a stool from a corner of the room for Gabriel to sit on.  He then took a guard position near the door inside the room while the other man closed the door and remained outside.

“Yes, John.  It’s me. I am glad you remember.”  Gabriel was genuinely happy John remembered him through the crash and the aftermath.  Not only was he personally thrilled, but clinically, it was a very good sign given the nature of his visit.  “How are you feeling?’

“About as good as can be expected under the circumstances, “ John replied, trying to stay nice to the young doctor.  But, why was he here?

“John, you do not know this, but when you were first brought in here, I asked to be your primary physician.  All the other doctors you have spoken with have done their work admirably, but I am ultimately in charge of your care.” Gabriel sighed. It was better to just spit it out. “I know that the other doctors told you about the condition of your spine and that it was unrepairable.”

“They certainly made that VERY clear.” John vented with barely controlled anger.

“Well … that.” Gabriel said rather awkwardly, his mouth twisting as he tried to say what he wanted. “That is why I am here.  Now, John, I do not want to raise any false hope in you, but … that assessment may not be totally accurate.”

If Declann could have raised up from the bed, he would have bolted toward the ceiling like a cat in shock. “What does that mean ‘not totally accurate?’”

“John, I am going to have to ask you to trust me on a few things right now.  There are certain aspects of what I am going to propose to you that are … well … frankly dangerous.  Most of it I cannot even tell you at this hospital. But, I will tell you all that I can. First, let me say … if you had not rescued me the other morning, you would not be in this bed like this right now.  You rescued me, and now I am going to try and rescue you.” Gabriel said.

“OK.  So, what exactly are we talking about here?  I may be in this position, but I am still a cop, and I can hear someone skirting the truth from a mile away.”

Gabriel reached into his pocket, pulled out a small device, and activated it. “This will not last for very long, but it will scramble any patient monitoring equipment and the hospital microphones nearby.  John, do you remember when I said that I had certain dealings with at the Federal Center and had a well … different lab than at CU?”

“You didn’t exactly mean to say anything, but that was the best supposition to make given what you did not say.” John replied.

Gabriel blushed realizing that John had read him so thoroughly though just a minor mistake.  No wonder he was a good cop. “Well, my area of research is neurological trauma, much like the trauma you have experienced.  Very advanced and very top secret work. I can give you a better explanation once you accept my offer, but, for now, I can tell you that this therapy can offer you some hope.  However there are also certain risks such as possible shifting of your bones or permanent damage to your muscle fibers.

“AND, most importantly, and I cannot emphasize this enough.  This therapy cannot be done under sedation. You must be fully conscious and … John, I am sorry.” Gabriel almost choked up as he said it.  “But, it will be excruciatingly painful. Far more painful than anything you have ever felt before. I cannot help that, I wish I could.

“There is a chance you will be in a far better position if this works, but you will pay for it in ways I can scarcely even describe.  That is all I can say here. It is your choice. But I hope you can trust me.”

For John, there was not a second’s hesitation.  “I am nothing without my work. And I cannot work like this.  I choose what you are offering, even knowing the risks, and that it might not work.  Some chance is better than none.”

“Are you sure John?  This is the last chance to reconsider.”

“Dr. York….Gabriel, “ John looked into the young researcher’s eyes almost pleading, begging, “I want a chance to have my life back.”

York took a breath and smiled. “OK.  First thing, I cannot allow you to see exactly where we are going.  Security reasons. And, assuming this works, you are going to be staying with me at “my place,” so to speak, for a couple of months.  So, I will need to sedate you for the trip.” York withdrew a hypodermic needle and injected John’s IV lead with a clear liquid. “And we have a suitable cover story that you are going out of state at a rehab facility.  I can also tell you, no one will ever know what was diagnosed here. I can and will make sure of that.”

Declann’s eyes began to fog.  “See you in a little while John.  Rest easy.” And with that Declann fell asleep.  Then, Gabriel went over to the suited man at the door.  “He is ready. Take him up to the helipad on the roof and load him on.  I will come with you if anyone asks questions.” York then opened the door and addressed the other large statured man. “We are ready.”

Gabriel and the two men pushed the gurney with Declann on it toward an elevator to the roof.  No sooner than they had passed around the corner, another fellow entered the same hospital room.  Although he was dressed as a hospital employee - he seemed a bit too large for what he was wearing and just a bit too military for an ordinary worker.  The man walked to the computer terminal and entered a username and password. Once he had access, he placed a USB stick into the terminal. After that all he had to do was wait.  Inside the machinery of the entire hospital, all the memory, the scanning devices - every microchip and resistor of it - any record, note, log, ANYTHING relating to Deputy Sergeant John Declann having been paralyzed simply melted away, as if it had never happened.  His task done, the man closed the terminal and left the building.

 

***

Three Hours Later-

***

The first sign John had of regaining consciousness was hearing things.  Voices around him:

“The subject is secured, doctor”

“Extraction process complete. Beginning Replication and Modification Procedures.”

“The subject is regaining consciousness.”  

Light, fuzzy at first, began to register to Declann’s eyes.  As the glare cleared, he found himself in a place he could have scarcely imagined.  John saw he was inside a white room that seemed to be covered in flat panel monitor screens.  He himself was lying on some sort of strange metal table. Going over and above his head, in a large C shape, was some sort of armature and camera device. Above that on the ceiling, facing down, was a massive LCD.  The overhead screen had an outline of a human body on it with several numerical readouts. And, John also noticed, he was tied down. Every part of him was tied down by thick leather straps. Only his eyes could move. If he cast them low enough, he even thought he could see that his useless legs were tied down.

At his side, he felt a presence approach as Gabriel came into view.  “Welcome back John. I apologize for restraining you like this, but considering what is going to happen, it will be for the best.  Now that you are here, I can fully explain what we have developed and what we are going to --”

“Ah . . . Gabriel,” John said rather sheepishly.  “You might want to give me the dumbed down version. I am no slouch but what little I can see of this place suggests that this stuff is going to be way beyond me.”

Gabriel laughed, “I doubt that John.  Without the unnecessary technical details, the ideas are simple enough.  

“What we have developed is a form of experimental genetic engineering-based surgery.  Nothing like in sci-fi TV but, maybe at the very early stages of that sort of thing. We created this for the military, for soldiers who have sustained serious injuries on the battlefield who are considered irreplaceable. But I hope that one day this can be released to the public for folks like you.  But, John, I must be upfront. You are the first human we have ever attempted this on. We have done plenty of simulations on our computers, but you are the first flesh and blood.

“While you were asleep, we took samples of your neurons, muscle cells, and stem cells.  And, right now in the lab, we are genetically modifying and cloning these samples en masse to create an army of very specialized, augmented cells.  With me so far?”

“I think so.  So what do these augmented things do?” John asked.

Gabriel smiled.  “Think of the new cells as something like living knitting needles.  We will transplant the new augmented cells into you. The modified nerve cells will lay down a copy of your entire nervous system running parallel to your native one, including the damaged area of your spinal cord.  At the same time this is happening, the augmented muscle and stem cells will lay down a series of connections between the new nervous system and your native muscles that will allow the modified nerves to work.

“When all of the augmented cells are in place, we will give you a special kind of drug that will activate the knitting process.  Your native nervous system and muscle cells will be “knit together” with the new nervous system and muscles, kind of like how a broken bone heals by knitting new bone tissue together with older bone.  Once the knitting is complete, your native cells and the augmented cells are fused into one nervous and muscular system, just like the one you have now, EXCEPT this new one will be whole and fully functioning.

“If all goes well, your spinal cord damage along with any other damage in your nervous system and to the muscles of the body will be as repaired.  Once they has served its purpose, the augmentation DNA we introduce in the cloned cells will die away, leaving only you behind. And the new you will be as solid and healthy as any broken wrist that is healed.  Making sense?”

John replied “So, you’re basically going to make me a second set of nerves and muscles to heal the ones in me that are broken?”

“More or less, yes.” Gabriel replied. “That is the theory.  Now, this is the important part for you. The practical parts of this -- what is actually going to happen to you that you will see and feel.

“The first thing we will do is a create a real time virtual model of your body inside of our computers.  It is something like the TSA body scanners used in airports only far more sensitive and powerful. This virtual model of you will be continuously updated throughout the process, and we can watch that virtual you on the screen over your head.  When we release the modified cells into your body, we use the scanner and to see that the modified cells line up as they should. Then, when everything is correctly laid down and ready, we will release the drug into your system.

“The drug will be the part that hurts John.  The drug causes a series of events that is going to fire every nerve and every muscle in your body all at once, over and over again.  And not just little twitches but full power flexing and relaxing, like thousands upon thousands of cramps but worse. Much, much worse.  And not just your muscles. Pain, heat, cold. What you can see, what you can smell, what you can hear. Everything. We will use the equipment we have here to keep you alive, but we can’t give you any drugs to dull the pain or lessen the cramps or the process of repairing your nerves would be damaged.  All of your new nerves and muscle would be permanently “dulled” exactly like the pain killer would dull the nerves receiving pain signals.

Declann again saw the look of anguish in Gabriel’s face and knew what was coming would be bad. “If there was any way we could localize this to just the damaged areas we would.  If I could spare you what is coming I would. But, it is just too far beyond us right now.” Gabriel reached down and took John’s hand. “Do you have any questions for me?”

John thought a moment.  “No, just … stay with me down here when you do it.  I do not want to go through this alone.”

Gabriel smiled down on John and became brave enough to caress his cheek.  “I will never leave you alone. Not through this, and not for a long time after it is done.”  John seemed to ease a bit at this. He didn’t know what it was about the doctor, but it just felt so right to face this together with him.

A voice over an unseen intercom spoke. “Doctor, the augmented cells are ready for introduction.”  Gabriel first looked down to John, who tried to nod his ascent one last time. “Then let’s start. Phase one everyone.” Gabriel said.  

Upon that cue, an unseen door opened and someone dressed like an operating room nurse entered with three very large IV Bags full of a darkly tinted liquid.  She efficiently connected each bag to one of the IV leads in John’s veins, and the liquids began to flow into his body. Above him, the screen lit up and showed John’s virtual body along with the following numbers:

 

Declann, J. Subject 0001

Height 5’7”

Weight 165 lbs

Neck:15.5

Chest: 39

Waist: 28.5

Forearms: 13

Upper Arms - 15.25

Thighs - 22

Calves - 15

 

On the screen, Declann watched as over the next hour, area after area of his “body” began to alight with green lines and shading.  The virtual avatar zoomed in and out, rotated and seemed to go right down to his very DNA as what seemed like mile upon mile of material lined up and connected itself right next to his current nervous system and muscles.  It made him a bit dizzy to watch as one area after another lit up and spun around until there were just two left - the area of his injury and the brain itself. Another nurse came in with a large needle full of the same liquid, and through a method he could not see, injected all of the material into an area he could not feel. Suddenly, the spot along is back that was black began to glow along with the rest of his body.  Above his body avatar, red lettters flashed: Phase One Introduction Complete.

Gabriel sighed. “Oh John, this is it.  I will stand by and watch with you, but the computer will take over from here.  I am sorry. This will be the longest two minutes of your life.” Only now, after over an hour, did Gabriel let go of John’s hand, “But it will be worth it.”

Gabriel moved away from John and as his voice cracked said, “Begin Phase 2.  Inject the reagent.”

At first, all John heard was a small hiss coming from under the table, followed by a mild tingling sensation.  Like an itch that was spreading from his back, through his arms and neck and head. An itch that was inside him, straight through him.  Everywhere. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if his heart could itch until --

CRAMPING.  EVERYTHING CRAMPING.  John began to scream violently.  Gabriel and the rest of the staff watched as John suddenly became a writhing mass of twisting, boiling knots.  All of John’s muscles began to roil, seemingly at random. Sweat began to pour as even the muscles in the pores of skin began to violently cramp.  It looked as if John’s whole body was boiling from the inside out. John’s inhuman screaming made even the most hardened military man in the control room stop and offer a silent prayer.  Visibly shaking and crying, Gabriel looked up at the status board above John’s bed. The entire board was flashing red - and only 30 seconds had elapsed.

“Heart rate 163 beats per minute and rising.  Dr. York, the heart is leaving sinus rhythm as expected.  Monitoring for any deviations from simulations.” But Gabriel wasn’t listening.  He was watching as John’s screams mercifully weakened, not because the pain was any less intense, but because the muscles used to control breathing were now in spasms of random, intense flexion and relaxation as well.

“Heart rate now 187 beats per minute.  60 seconds elapsed.” An alarm sounded as John began to convulse.  Even his once dead legs began to fight against the restraints, as if he were in the car crash again, and his body was fighting the seat belt. John’s eyes began to flutter.  His hair began to stand on end across his body. Gabriel fought the constant urge in his mind and soul to try and stop this, to spare the man he cared for so much pain. But, he knew he must not.

‘Heart rate 217 beats per minute.  Erratic multi rhythm patterns. Breathing at 60 breaths per minute, shallow.  90 seconds elapsed.” Gabriel knew the heart rhythm pattern was to be expected, a sign that this was going to plan.  Two entire complete nervous systems, telling the heart to beat at different times. Now, was the most dangerous time.  

“Heart rate 236 beats per minute.  Patterns synchronizing. Wait --” Gabriel saw it first.  The spasms were beginning to subside. He rushed over and looked at the status board.  The red was slowly turning green. The signature of the augmented cells was fading away as a new white signature appeared, John’s fused nervous system and muscles.

“Heart rate 154 beats per minute slowing rapidly.  Breathing more regular.” Gabriel rushed to touch John, now that the worst was over.  He caressed his sweat soaked forehead. In fact, John looked like he had been through a shower. Even his facial sweat was mixed with tears as the tear ducts too had flexed open. John was so exhausted that all he could do was lay there, barely able to respond at all to Gabriel, but he managed in a very quiet, breathless whisper.

 

“Is ….

 

It….

 

over?”

 

“Yes, John.” Gabriel leaned in close.  “Yes, it is over.” Gabriel could not help it.  In a shear wave of relief, he kissed John’s cheek.  John gave an weak smile. Gabriel marveled. Was it real or just a reflex? There was little time to find out, as staff rushed in and began to hook up IV bags of saline, glucose, and electrolytes to replace all the materials the procedure had drained from John.  Now, all Gabriel could do was wait. Wait for the clock, wait on the saline and glucose. Wait for John to recover just enough to see if it had worked.

The following hour seemed like an eternity.  But, slowly, the IV infusions allowed John to recover some strength.  He was still exhausted, but at least he was more coherent.

“How do you feel John?”

“Like crap.” John whispered.  “Gabriel. I still cannot feel --”  Gabriel responded with a “Shhhhhhh.”  John fell silent as the young doctor moved with trepidation toward John’s feet.  He very lightly ran a fingernail up John’s right foot.

The response he got was the last thing in the world he expected.  There was no movement, but a very slight giggle erupted from John’s lips.  Gabriel changed feet and again lightly touched. Another even stronger giggle resulted.

Finally, Gabriel tried both feet at once and a full out, gravelly, whispered giggle and a tiny shiver issued from John.  John tried to raise his head as far up as he could while still strapped down to the table. He could not see anyone, but he knew Gabriel had not left him.  

 

“Hey Gabriel?”

 

“Yes John?”

 

“Why is someone tickling my feet?”  

 

Every person in the facility erupted into wild laughter and cheers.  Gabriel ran up to John’s head and embraced him. It had worked. Somehow, some way, it had worked.  John’s toes began to slightly wave under their own power as the team celebrated. And the policeman and scientist shared a moment of awe and relief together.

 

***

One week later -

***

 

“Come on John.  I know you can do this.  Just concentrate and make the muscles work.  Not your weight, the muscles,” Gabriel said. John took another deep breath at the end of the raised walking platform of the facility physical therapy room.  He was standing balanced on crutches, frustrated, but willing to give it one more try. Slowly …. VERY SLOWLY, John used the crutches to stabilize himself. He swung one leg forward. One step. Another.  Two steps. Again. Three steps, and four steps...before he collapsed into Gabriel’s arms covered in sweat. Gabriel carefully moved John’s small but hard muscled body down into a nearby chair as he breathed heavily.

“Gabriel . . . . why . . .is this . . .so hard?”  John asks in breathlessness. “I ….thought my arms ….would be fine ….but it is like they are stuck in molasses as much as my legs are.”

Gabriel now unhesitatingly grasped John’s hand.  In their week together they had built a bond beyond doctor and patient and now something closer to very intimate lifetime friends.  “John, I promise you your progress is remarkable. Truly more than we expected, more than even the most optimistic projections.”

Gabriel then let out a sigh.  “But - remember how I told you there were some possible side effects that we did not expect to happen but could?  Well, our tests show something like that has happened that explains this. We thought that the augmented cells DNA would fade out over time after the native and augmented cells fused.  That it would only remain in your spine, and only then until your healing was complete there. But that is not what has happened. The tests show that the augmented DNA is in your entire body still AND is stable.  It isn’t breaking down. It has integrated. Your nervous and muscular systems are now different from every human who has ever lived.”

John looked suddenly frightened, but Gabriel smiled and waved him off, “No, no, no.  That is the thing. We cannot find anything bad from it at all. Everything seems to be functioning quite normally, even though it is different.  You are just feeling stiff and tired because of that new DNA. You are having to learn how to use everything in your body again all at once instead of just your legs.  That is why this is so remarkable. I mean. John, flex your quad.”

John looked down and with just a bit of concentrated effort, his lean but well defined muscles sprang into life.  Gabriel took his hand and John’s and rested it on the small, hard muscles. “THAT IS PROGRESS JOHN!” Gabriel raved. “Just remember this will get easier.  Your strength is returning at an astounding rate. And every time you doubt that.” Gabriel patted the now hardened muscle that felt totally lifeless and limp only 8 days before. “Reach down and touch this.  You WILL do it.”

John reached out and hugged the young doctor.  “Thank you. Just remind me when I get cranky, huh?”

Gabriel beamed.  “Deal. Now, let’s head for some lunch before the afternoon session.  You know Jack likes you fed before he starts his part of your training.”  Gabriel brought John’s wheelchair over next to him. Declann then used the crutches to push himself to his feet, take one step toward his wheelchair, and sit down.  Gabriel began to talk animatedly as he pushed John out the door toward the cafeteria.

 

***

Three weeks after surgery-

***

 

“Two minutes John.  Fantastic.” The PhD/personal trainer John had come to know as Jack said.  “Keep hanging as long as you can. You’ve got this. We have already past your personal best.  This is just icing on the cake.”

John was sweating just a bit from exertion as he hung from the pull up bars of a gym-style multi-station inside the training room.  John slowly kicked his legs back and forth from the hip, back and forth, while holding himself as still as he could with balance and upper body strength.  Gabriel and all the doctors said his upper body must be back to near what it was before the accident. Holding himself up like this had become easier by the day during the week that Declann had been doing this exercise.  And John had to agree. He was feeling like his old self again. Not 100% back, but much much closer.

A bell sounded and Jack got up, “ I have to step outside for a second John.  Just keep going as long as you can. And then drop into the foam. I’ll be right back.” Jack stepped out, and the door closed.  

John kept up with the exercise, back and forth, back and forth.  But, something … he did not know why, just another mischievous urge perhaps, but --  he wanted to try it. Once again, when no one was looking. John allowed himself to come to a stop.  Hanging in the air, he used his biceps to slowly pull up and rotate his body to a 45 degree angle. He froze, holding himself there, and then pointed his toes and pulled his legs UP at the hip.  His legs rose, fully elongated, almost as straight as a male gymnast in competition. He looked like he was doing a hanging leg raise at first, but his legs kept going past that point until they were almost perpendicular to the floor.  He stopped there, looking folded up, and hung motionless for a scant second. Then he began to sweep his legs at the hips, slowly, to the right and to the left, right and left. Each sweep ending with his legs parallel to the floor. The motion was fluid, perfect, with not so much as a bend or quiver from any muscle in John’s body.  

After 5 complete sweeps, John allowed his legs to come down and stop at 90 degrees to his torso.  Then, he used his arms to pull his upper body out and flat until it was aligned with his legs, John held his entire body suspended parallel to the floor.  He then began to raise and lower himself up and down doing totally unsupported horizontal air pull ups. 5 more full range of motion reps before he relaxed his arms, and dropped onto the soft cushions below.

John smiled to himself.  Gabriel would be so proud when he showed him this, but he was planning to keep it a surprize for a few more weeks until he could do 10 or 15 of each without stopping.  It was funny. He had never been able to do this kind of ab work and pullups with such total control and precision, even before the accident. And it seemed to be getting just a bit easier everyday when he was left alone to attempt it.  It MUST have been all the training he had been doing here learning how to move again that gave him this control and relative strength. He knew that once he showed Gabriel what he could do, Gabe would be so proud of his staff for getting him this far.  He just shook his head as he smiled as he repeated in his mind how hard this sort of thing had seemed before the accident. He didn’t seem like he was bigger, but somehow, he thought he felt just a little stronger. That thought was greeted by stomach growl.  John chuckled again. Weird how he had the biggest appetite lately . . .

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