Eris R Lebeau •
Published: 14th October 2008 •
Updated: 14th October 2008
|He flexes a hand slowly, testing the fine motor skills of this new body. The fingers respond with a precision he finds remarkable. He smiles, imagining his improved accuracy with a pulse rifle. In the mirror, his appearance is as he remembers it, though he knows the resemblance is only external. Beneath the bioloid skin, he is no longer a man of flesh and blood, but a creature of circuits and steel .
He turns to face the Kalish technician, a pretty young woman who stares at his naked form with acute scientific curiosity. “The cosmetic team appears to have done an excellent job. Is anything missing?”
“Missing?” He checks the mirror again and sees his own puzzled smile.
“Scars, birthmarks, anything that, if absent, would lead to suspicion. My orders are to make sure the likeness is identical, and given that the original subject was obliterated, I have only your word.”
“It is...” he searches for a word to describe this miraculous gift. “It is beyond expectations.”
“Yes, I imagine it is. When we found the data spools in the command carrier wreckage, the last thing we expected was a living consciousness. I believe I speak for the whole scientific team when I say we are grateful to you for giving us this opportunity.” She walks over to a shelf and retrieves a set of clothing, which she hands to him.
“And to the Scarrans for providing the equipment, of course.” He cannot keep the bitterness out of his voice as he pulls on the shirt and trousers.
“Working for the Scarrans is a necessity of survival. Ours and yours.” She raises an eyebrow. “You will fulfill your end of the agreement.” Her tone makes it clear that she is making a statement, not asking a question.
He meets her eyes and shrugs. He knows this second life will end if he betrays the Scarrans. Locked deep within his new brain are fail safes and contingency code that will initiate a self-destruct sequence if he disobeys orders. That alone is not sufficient leverage to secure his cooperation. He needs a reason to care about his own survival. “That depends. Have you honored my request?”
Her face lights up with pride and a touch of something deeper. Perhaps Kalish women have some sense of maternal instinct, though it could be a trick of the light as it plays on those turquoise eyes. “Oh, yes! The boy is magnificent! Jayza-- she is the lead of the cosmetic team-- she enjoyed the opportunity to employ some creativity. Usually bioloids are made to more exact specifications.”
If he were still a man, his heart would be pounding in anticipation. The biomechanoid pump inside him does not respond to his surging emotions, which are no less real than they were before. He wonders if his real eyes would have teared and decides there will be many advantages to this new body. “The data transfer... his consciousness?” He can hardly articulate a question.
The technician shrugs. “Only you can judge that. Are you ready to meet him?”
He nods, unable to formulate words.
She taps her comm. “Jayza? Is he able to walk?”
Yes. Once he stopped being stubborn, he learned quickly. Shall I bring him to you?
“Yes, please.” The technician smiles nervously, and reaches out to take his hand.
He squeezes her hand gently, aware of his increased strength, then pulls away, not wanting to be distracted by the contact. The microts drag by and he begins to pace. Finally, the door slides open with a faint pneumatic hiss and two figures enter. One is a tall Kalish woman that must be Jayza, and the other is an olive-skinned boy with glossy black hair and large, expressive eyes.
The boy moves forward with shambling, awkward steps, though his body is perfectly formed. He frowns in concentration, and when Jayza reaches to assist him, he pushes her away, determined to make his own way across the room. He looks up at the man and forces a lopsided smile. “This is more difficult than I guessed from watching you.”
The man knows his real eyes would be streaming, even as he returns the boy's smile. “You are doing well, Talyn.” He takes a step toward the bioloid that houses what was once a Leviathan hybrid.
“I hope so, Father.” Thin mechanical arms wrap around the man's waist, and he wonders if the strength of the boy's embrace will damage his internal components. He decides he doesn't care. Let the Kalish repair him and bill the Scarrans for their efforts.
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