Hook Up

Clutching at each other, one backed up. The other shuffled forwards. The doors slid open automatically, a small service cupboard providing some privacy. It wasn’t needed. Two crew members were all that needed to be active while travelling, the ship’s AI handling most of the heavy duty. Everyone else was in sleep mode.

They still occupied the service cupboard, limbs of composite casing and synthetic muscles clinging tightly to reinforced torsos. They broke their kiss to gulp down the chill air, their advanced bodies starting to stabilize their breathing.

“Do you-”

“Yeah,” he panted, reaching down to his pocket. “Got one with me.” He procured a length of cable tucked away in a protective spool, two connection plugs available. Pulling one out, he pressed it against the back of his neck before chuckling.

Turning the plug the other way, he pressed it in again.

A sigh escaped his lips. Turning it back the original way, the plug slid smoothly into the Human-Machine Interface port situated there. “Usually the way.” He laughed softly, looking a little sheepish.

“It’s okay.” His crewmate said softly, taking the other plug between their fingers. “I get a little nervous too before hooking up with someone.”

Sat Aside

Away from her boisterous colleagues celebrating another Earth Year passed, Jena sat by her bivouac bag doing a spot check on her pulse rifle. The cyborg was not in a jovial mood, and the attempts of her squad-mates to cajole her into attending the festivities didn’t help matters.

Her visual checks of the large energy weapon were accompanied by in-vision overlays relaying diagnostic data from it. She was meticulous in her checks. Having gone through the pain of losing a large majority of her birth body to combat injuries, she didn’t want to have to repeat that with her cybernetic replacements. A well-maintained set of equipment was the first line of defence. A good monitoring network was second, and the feed from the deployed probes scrolling past her eyes provided that.

A din came from around the camp fire, an ancient Earth song traditionally belted out while drunk. They didn’t know all the words, so they just whooped and droned until they got to the few lines they remembered. The absurdity of the situation made her chuckle. An old song sung light years away from home. How many years had it been since she was last in the Solar System, let alone on Earth?

High Command were resolute that EY2982 would be the final year of conflict in the Makardis Sector. With EY2981 slipping away, Jena made herself a promise. If she survived her tour of duty? She’d take a trip back home.

And maybe she’d welcome EY2983 in on Earth in a bar, rather than sat aside on an alien world.

Writer’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were Jovial, Resolute, and Promise. Happy New Year, here’s to a 2015 with more writing done in it than 2014.

Scars of War

“I sit writing this in the pockmarked remains of a border town, our unit having rolled in to secure the area. I am Specialist Jacob Dalmers, a member of the United Nations Armed Forces, of the North American Regiment’s Engineering Corps. Our duties here are threefold:

  1. Sweep and secure the area, making buildings safe and disabling any IEDs or traps that may have been left.
  2. Restore utilities to the area, from water and power to sewage and communications.
  3. Aid the civilian population who have remained behind.

The first duty is very important. A year ago, I was on the receiving end of such an attack. Most of my body is now military-grade cybernetics. A rough estimate would be 80%. Organs have been replaced with cybernetic components to power and work the prosthetics that make up my limbs. I had some augmentations beforehand, military standard comm units and vision augmentation. This is far beyond that.

Removing these threats means the rest of our operation can proceed smoothly, with minimal risk of injury. And the threats are not always due to traps. Unstable buildings are common thanks to artillery and rockets, and we have tools to buttress them or bring them down if they are too hazardous.

The second duty only takes place after the first. We have supplies to last us while we work on repairing the destruction brought here thanks to the war between the UNAF forces, and the insurgent Cartel organizations. The Annexation Wars that ended in the 2080’s were supposed to be the last major conflict. As a soldier, I can say there will likely be more after this. As a person, I am sad to feel that way.

The people in this region have had to endure much in the course of this conflict from both sides. War damages everyone. And the populace do not have the benefit of exoframes to enhance their strength to clear the rubble. They lack the armour plating to protect themselves or their livelihoods from damage caused by both sides of this battle. They do not have the benefit of carefully planned logistics to keep them supplied with essentials.

And that is what the last duty is about. The first two points help the people, but we must do what we can to aid them and to gain their trust. We cannot presume to ride in the victors to praise and adulation. There is only one way to earn their respect and prove that we are here for the right reasons…”

The journal he had been writing disappeared from his vision as he approached the rubble of a small housing complex. Saved to memory, Specialist Dalmers had more important things to do than write for his memoirs. With his mechanical limbs, his body armour and the corps exoframe he wore to aid him in his duty, he towered a head or two above most of the men left in the region.

The people digging through the remains of the building looked warily at him as he approached. With his armaments secured in their holsters, he raised his hands up. One of them, an older looking woman, said something to him in Mexican. After a moment, the translation of what she said appeared in-vision, suspended above her in a speech bubble.

[We’re looking for our belongings. We aren’t looking for trouble.]

Nodding, Jacob joined them and sunk down to his knees to begin lifting chunks of debris up, his arms and exoframe easily hefting the rubble to the wheelbarrows they had set up to aid in clearing the site. With wary eyes still on him, he pulled up his translation program to compose a sentence.

[I am not looking for trouble either. May I continue to help?] He selected, and then watched as the program finished the translation. Reading off the words, the civilians seemed to consider this for a moment before nodding. With a slight bow of his head he got back to digging with armoured hands well suited to the job. It would take a lot of work and time to heal the scars of the Annexation Wars, let alone this conflict.

Author’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words are: Destruction, Endure, Trust. This is a Tranquil Law setting story, dealing with one of the secondary characters in his former profession.

Clog

[Your left lung is in need of a cleaning routine.] The message flashed up in-vision. A small icon appeared in the heads-up-display, a representation of her lungs with the right displaying as amber while the left was red. Louise Barrington focused her attention on the icon, resulting in a pop up window listing diagnostics.

[Organic and inorganic material accumulates in cybernetic lungs, reducing O2 functions as material presence increases. It is now time for your lung to undergo a cleaning routine before serious clogs start forming. If you wish to begin now, please confirm.] A message read above the display of maximum, minimum and current breathing levels.

Pushing herself up from her bunk, she strode on through to the small bathroom in the room she shared with a fellow soldier. She had been called back to base from her forward sniping position, where the rolling clouds of dust and sand had no doubt contributed towards the build up of detritus in her lungs. With the room to herself, there was no better time to get to maintenance of her expensive body.

Slipping off her fatigue top revealed the extensive cybernetics she’d had done to herself. Her limbs had been replaced with sleek, military specification prosthetics with all the necessary features for sniping built in. Her torso was lined with the incision marks and seals that were made to replace biological organs with synthetic ones designed for performance and synergy with cybernetic limbs.

Running a finger up her left side, she found the small valve in her chest that connected to the lung inside. Sitting herself down on the lid of the toilet, her free hand took up the pulmonary cleaner kit. An all-in-one device, it was prepared by adding three bottles to the main body. Two smaller ones contained a cleanser and distilled water, while the larger one was for the removal of the mixed product and any residue.

Upon selecting confirm from the dialogue box, she felt the odd sensation of her left lung shutting down. The haemoglobin transfer tubing sealed itself off. A long exhale emptied her lung so the bronchial lock could prevent anything else entering. As directed by the in-vision diagrams, she connected the cleaner to the valve and pressed the button.

Her artificial hands gripped her thighs as a biocidal cleaning agent flowed through her lung. The contractions usually used for delivering air to what flesh and blood remained in her instead flushed through the part in a set cycle before extraction. Louise kept her eyes averted from the larger bottle as the cleanser brought out various other things in addition to the liquid.

The water came next in three stages, from a rinse to a fine mist, then one last rinse to ensure the lung was free of cleanser. It was fascinating for her to watch the diagnostic program work, opening her lung back up to allow a quick circulation of air before the O2 transfer systems came back online.

[Your left lung is now clean and working at optimal efficiency.] The readout reported happily. [Please dispose of the waste responsibly. Would you like to perform a cleaning routine on your right lung?] It asked.

Well, it wasn’t like she had anything else to do while waiting for deployment.

Something Saturday: Monologue #1 (Ameer Anwar)

“Hardest thing about being a soldier, if you ask me? Not being one any more. I joined the British Armed Forces when I was 16. Trained up till I was 18, then deployed for the tail-end of World War 3, and all of the Annexation Wars.

You have to understand, my parents? They didn’t want me to join up. Said I was forbidden. I left home and joined anyway. All of my old life left behind. One of the reasons why it’s hard being anything but a solider. That’s all Ameer Anwar’s ever been.

I was trained in signals, communications and electronic warfare. That’s why the 1st Adders wanted me for the Annexation Wars. We all had our roles, our skills that we brought into the team. They trained us together and they trained us until we bled and sweat and cried on each other, and that gave us a strong bond.

With advanced exo-suits from UNAF’s finest R&D departments we were what those DARPA boys from the States had dreamed of for years. We’d drop high, open our parachutes low and execute our mission in a matter of minutes. That’s what we did in Kigali, and everything went as well as expected.

Well, apart from my arm. I hate going into the story in detail, and it’s been written up plenty, so here are the basics: I took a bomb blast at close range. Lost my arm and various other bits.

By then, the UNAF were well into their Rapid Rehabilitation Program. Those who were injured were cyberized, given new parts to replace damaged flesh, patched up and had the command routines for their metal bits fed into their brain. Then they sent us off to fight again.

Some say they did the job that the King’s Horses and Men couldn’t do with Humpty Dumpty, but hell if some of us weren’t broken, or walking ghosts. I got off lightly. Others? You treat a man like a tool and one day he’ll break. And they did break. And when you have men and women bristling with military-grade gear and something off in the head? You get tragedies happening.

Post-Conflict Psychosis with a side of Rapid Rehabilitation Stress Syndrome. It’s no surprise really. You drill people till they’re automatons, you send them into scenes of horror, you put the sick and the injured on a production line to get them ‘ready for the worthy fight’ and you know what happens?

They get put back in the civilian world and all that programming is still there, and it will find away to go off. And now I’m out. Done my time, fought my fights. My parts would cost too much to replace and now they’ve scaled down the army, I’m old tech.

They’ve promised me some research position on the Moon. Using my signals skills at the Daedalus Radiotelescope, latest bastion in the exploration of space. At least until some wise-ass puts one on Mars. Then I guess I’ll be old tech again. Maybe you can come by and interview me again. See if I’ve snapped and punched some teen coffee jockey in the face because the sound of my espresso being made hearkens back to the good ol’ days of witnessing atrocities.

Are we done here now? I have a shuttle to catch.”

– Ameer Anwar, speaking to UNBC’s ”Five Years On” Project, 2093. At the request of the UNAF Press & Public Relations Department, it was not included for broadcast.

Super-able

I watch them perform, running on the track and jumping in the field, and I cannot help but think ‘I can do better.’

But I cannot.

When I asked the coach if I could perform, he blinked at my proposal and then barked a short laugh. His face was incredulous until he saw I was serious. He coughed uncomfortably, humming and haring as he tried to explain himself.
“The Olympics is about human performance at its peak.” He said weakly, eyes darting left and right.

“So I’m not human, is that it?” I hissed, drawing myself up with arms crossed over my chest. I could feel the bunches of synthetic muscle fibres in my arms and legs tightening up, anger in my mind flooding the microprocessors that controlled my limbs with rapidly cancelled commands to lash out.

His face fell, cheeks losing colour as the blood retreated away from the possibility of being spilt. “I- I didn’t mean that, I mean that… well, you couldn’t compete in the paralympics you know. That’s for the disabled. And the Olympics are for the able-bodied. And you? Well…”

I stared with hard eyes at him, watching sweat bead on his forehead, a nervous trickle fleeing down the side of his face. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he gulped air in to fuel the next sentence.

“You’re super-able. I mean, the cybernetic legs you have would easily smash the world record, but that puts you at a huge advantage over the other, non-enhanced athletes.” The coach said apologetically, words accompanied by a weak shrug of his shoulders.

He was right, of course. I’d done the events in practice at the lab where my new limbs were developed. One hundred meters in five seconds. My legs carried me at forty-five miles per hour, my reinforced spine holding my pose perfect and my computer-linked brain sending corrections to the co-processors that regulated my gait and stride. I didn’t even break a sweat.

“I know you want to do your country proud, but… maybe in a few years, when there are more like you able to compete, and you can have your own games.” The coach smiled, perhaps even a little sincerely. “Until then, all I can say is watch and practice hard.”

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to compete. The nations of the world will see me perform at levels above and beyond that of non-cyborgs. Until then, my audience is the technicians and scientists that rebuilt me to be something more than human, watching with proud eyes as I run faster, leap higher and throw further than ever seen.