Sons of Thunder

I figured this week was time to bring out one of my (semi-)original ideas for a character (or two) and storyline that might be adaptable into various formats/media. Now, if you are at all familiar with Captain America, you will recognize some similarities (though not exact matches) in their origins and choice of weaponry. If I was to adapt this more fully, I would probably write that “inspiration” into the origin story — e.g., someone on the “Thunder” project team was a big fan of Captain America comics, recognized the parallel with the “Super Soldier Program”, then got an idea for the shields, etc.

In any case, give it a read and let me know what you think….

“Sons of Thunder”

Over a decade ago, a special alliance was formed between the Research & Development divisions of… well, let’s just say, a covert operations organization (which shall remain unnamed) with ties to the U.S. government and its counterpart in Israel. The leaders of these two groups realized that they had similar goals, though taking different approaches, and working together could be mutually beneficial. They created a special project, co-funded and co-administered by both nations, to develop the perfect intelligence operative — equal parts James Bond, undercover cop, and “superhero”. The project, codenamed “Thunder”, aims to accomplish this by enhancing the physical and mental abilities of agents who volunteer for the experiments.

Two years ago, breakthroughs were made, and the project was ready for its first human subjects. Potential candidates were screened from military branches and intelligence agencies from the U.S. and Israel, with the goal of creating teams of two — one from each nation. After a couple of tragic initial attempts, the first successful team began their physical and academic training regimens. Mike Brown was recruited from the U.S. Marines and is of solid, (evangelical) Christian character. Ira “Ben” Benjamin is recruited from the ranks of the Mossad and is of traditional Jewish upbringing. The two subjects/operatives, both in their early 30s, bonded during their shared “Thunder” training and other interests, becoming as close as brothers.

Segun Oduolowu

Segun Oduolowu

One result of the program’s genetic/physical alterations was an increase in muscle mass & density. For example, whereas both subjects were muscular and extremely fit — approx. 6′, 190 lbs. –, they now each weigh close to 250 lbs. It is obvious that they work out extensively, but much of the added weight comes from increased density of their muscle tissue, so most outsiders would guess that they weigh about 200 lbs at most. Internal organs are also somewhat more efficient, and “fatigue poisons” build up at a much reduced rate. Naturally, this means that they are noticeably stronger, faster, and have more endurance than even most Olympic-level athletes, though only slightly superhuman. Their reflexes have been increased to at least twice that of normal humans. Further, their immune systems and natural healing ability have been greatly amplified, so that they can survive injuries, trauma, poisoning (both from toxins and radiation), etc., that most others would not. The drawback is that Brown and Benjamin must take regular doses of a special drug cocktail (aka “supplements”), which may be explained away to others as insulin injections. (I have not yet worked out what the side-effects would be for not taking a scheduled dose, how soon those side-effects would be felt, or how serious it could be.)

Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen (5’11”,b.1982)

The other major change resulting from the “Thunder” project was an increase in learning capacity. So, whereas both subjects were already well above average, with IQs in the 120-130 range, they now test at roughly 200. Both operatives have also developed enhanced — though not “photographic” — memories. Thus, in only 18 months they have learned the equivalent of advanced degrees in engineering and biochemistry, as well as studying political science, criminology, world literature, economics, computer science, and a few languages. They also work with a dialect coach on occasion. Their continuing military training has included various martial arts, demolition, aviation, mechanics of various vehicles, weapons of all types, and strategic warfare. These disciplines have been deemed the most potentially useful for the various sorts of research and other preparations they may have to take for missions — including those involving going undercover. One positive side-effect of this mental enhancement is that the subjects have an increased hunger for knowledge, so they are always reading and watching, learning new stuff. (Of course, some of it is just for personal pleasure — e.g., Brown’s fascination with American football and Christian theology, and Benjamin’s interests in world history and science fiction.) The negative side-effect is that they are especially prone to headaches, which leads to irritability. Commercially-available painkillers help, but the worst bouts require massage and/or relaxation techniques.

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981)

Their ongoing training includes a few weapons not available to the average soldier, sailor, or spy. Most notably, the shields. In more combat-intensive operations (e.g., storming an enemy compound), each operative carries a concave, disk-shaped shield roughly 2.5 feet in diameter, which can be used both offensively and defensively. Both shields have a titanium steel core, but the outer surface differs. One has a high-density rubber coating about 1/8″ thick on the ‘inside’ and 1/4″ thick on the ‘outside’. The other has an experimental ceramic coating that gives it yet-to-be-determined properties. Both shields are extremely strong (e.g., resistant to mortar-fire) and will absorb/dissipate large amounts of concussive force or kinetic energy, as well as being non-conductive of electricity. The shields are normally a dull grey color, though this can change, and the operatives may alternate who uses which one in any particular situation.

Enver Gjokaj (5'10",b.1980)

Enver Gjokaj (5’10”,b.1980)

“Project: Thunder” has — in some cases, borrows — facilities in several countries and deals with a variety of threats: terrorists, drug cartels, arms merchants, rogue nations, militia groups, international corporations, lone assassins, organized crime, etc. While they act globally, most of the “business” they are interested in is focused in the U.S., Middle East, and Europe. The two primary locations — combination labs and training facilities — are in rural Virginia and outside Haifa, Israel. As indicated, the “sons” will go on missions of various sorts, which may require any number of skills or sets of knowledge beyond what a simple mission-brief can provide — thus, the extensive academic studies mentioned earlier. These missions will range from hostage rescues to infiltration & destruction of enemy facilities to several weeks undercover in an enemy (or protected) organization. This means being able to pose as anything from a virologist to an airplane mechanic to a mercenary thug to an ordinary businessman. Sometimes they “go under” together — either in similar or in very different roles — and sometimes one remains “outside” as monitor and backup.

It should be noted that Brown and Benjamin are only the beginning, and new “Sons of Thunder” teams are being developed and trained. Not many people are aware of the Project, even within the international intelligence community. But, those who do know might be getting nervous about how such an “army of elite, enhanced paramilitary operatives” could be used against them….

Incidentally, and in case you were wondering, the phrase “sons of thunder” comes from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. It was a nickname given by Jesus (Mark 3:17) to James and John, two of his closest friends and part of the “inner circle” of his disciples. There is no explanation given for the nickname, but some have suggested that the incident in Luke 9:54 reveals an impetuousness and/or fervency that might be called “thunderous”. I suppose this biblical connection was also what made me think of giving my two protagonists their religious affiliations. (I haven’t decided, yet, whether or not to have either or both be particularly impulsive in nature. If so, it would be something he/they learn quickly to control, just as the disciple John eventually became known as the “Apostle of Love”.)

I have added casting suggestions above for Mike Brown (Oduolowu or Winchester) and “Ben” Benjamin (Cohen or Gjokaj). Any pairing might work, but I’m partial to either Oduolowu/Cohen or Winchester/Gjokaj.

The “Sons of Thunder” concept is a mix of sub-genres, I guess. I can see it going either more toward the espionage angle or a bit more superhero-ish (w/o costumes) or a fair mix of the two (a la “The Six Million Dollar Man”). Do you think it might work as a TV series? Are the Captain America similarities too much? What about the increased IQ? Constructive comments are welcome….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.



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