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Fleet 21

They’d come for me in my sleep, slapping a sedation patch to my outer arm the night after I’d ‘graduated’ boot camp. I only woke when the larger needle slid deep into my arm. I screamed between clenched teeth. I was strapped to the table, tethered so tightly I couldn’t even flinch from the pain. My head and jaws were strapped in place. A weathered face peered into my eyes, waving a brilliant flashlight across my vision and leaving me blind and gasping. “You shouldn’t be awake,” he said. There was no remorse or surprise in his voice. It was just a statement of fact. “It’s unfortunate for you. We won’t be able to dose you with another sedative so soon, but we can’t have you moving.” He made a motion across my body and another hand appeared in view. The craggy face took the offered needle. “This is a paralytic. It will keep you from moving.” He slid the needle into my neck and slid the plunger all the way forward. He looked up, “We will begin immediately.”

The flashlight burned my eyes again and somewhere outside my range of vision a saw started running. “If everything works properly, you won’t even remember this occurred, but I encourage you to watch. This truly is an interesting procedure.”

Straps still held me down when I woke. They were looser this time and my head wasn’t trapped. I yanked hard and managed to tear my left arm free as my eyes came open. Janet whipped away from the monitor on the side of the room and lunged toward me. “Whoa! It’s okay, Wade. Hang on.”

I snarled and slapped her hands away from the restraint on my right arm. I yanked the release catch and the cloth covered cuff clanged against the side of the bed. Janet watched me sit up with wide eyes and raised her hands. “I’m not going to hurt you, Wade. I was going to let you up.”

A heavy bandage had replaced the rubber tube on my right arm. I scowled at it while Janet released the cuffs holding my legs in place. My clothes were gone, replaced by a sterile gown. I plucked at it and gave Janet a withering glare.

She dropped her gaze. “I had nothing to do with it,” she said.

“Nothing to do with what?”

“Dr. Kang decided to do your chip implant while you were out.” She met my eyes only briefly. “I guess he saw something strange because then he put your further under and ran a bunch of different tests and scans. When he finished them he ordered you restrained and he left. He hasn’t been back.”

“Did he say anything?”

“No, but he was really pissed that you bit him. He needed six stitches.”

I snorted. My anger was already fading. It hadn’t really been directed at her anyway. “He deserved it. Can you get me my clothes?” She pointed to the table beside the bed. “Oh, thanks.”

I sat up, swinging my legs off the bed and pulling the sterile gown off my front. Something about the look on Janet’s face made me stop in mid-motion. I sighed, tossing the crumpled gown at the hamper in the corner. “Usually, women who watch me strip either smile or turn away.”

She flushed, stammering mindlessly without looking away. “You saw the scan results, didn’t you?”

She swallowed. “Multiple sets of surgical scars. Two distinct sets overlapping each other on both sides and a third set located at strategic locations on the left side.”

I stood up, sliding the rest of the way into my pants. “Sounds about right.”

“They’re from implants aren’t they?” Her voice was too eager. “Military cybernetics? The older set is from implantation and the newer ones are from when they took them out? Were they vehicle controls? So you can bond directly with the machines? Or weapon mounts? If they were for heavy weapons, that would explain the damage and the reinforcements to your skeleton on the left side. Or-“

“Janet…” I cut her off.

“How did they do it?” She stepped forward trailing fingers over my chest. “Every bone on the left side of your skeleton has been coated in high impact ceramic-”

“Janet.”

“And your ligaments! How many of them have been replaced with carbon fiber cable? How did they-?”

“Hey!” She finally stopped talking. “I’m not a fucking science project.”

“I…I was just trying to understand-“

“Understand what?” I stepped forward, forcing her back. “You want to know what they did to me?” My voice rose in pitch and volume. “They drug me out of high school and forced me into the military. They beat me, they screamed at me, and they forced me to train. Two weeks before my eighteenth birthday they tore open my body and welded machines to it and they got away with it because I was an orphan and the law said the state could still make decisions on my behalf. They turned me into a living weapon and two years later when a resonance blast wave shattered every bone on my left side, they didn’t give me a year in traction to heal. They cut me open, assembled me like a God damned jigsaw puzzle and glued me back together so they could get their fucking money’s worth!”

“I’m sorry.” Her whisper was harsh. “I didn’t know. I didn’t think.”

“You have any other questions you want to ask me?”

“No… I’m sorry.”

I grabbed the rest of my clothes off the table and left without looking back.

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