Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Consciousness came back slowly, from the extremities in. First pins and needles in the fingertips and toes, then the crawling burn of some painful memory winding its way along the arms, up the legs, gathering speed until it exploded in a relentless fireball in the brain.

Taxx. A moment ago I was being killed by –

“And here we are back again, Lieutenant.” The voice was everywhere and nowhere, I wasn’t hearing it so much as –

“See how much more clearly you can listen without the limits of your ears, Lieutenant?”

There was a white flash, then an image began to stabilize. I hadn’t opened my eyes, and yet I was seeing, something, a mirror? Something wasn’t right, how—

“And see how much better the view without your eyes, Lieutenant. Now I can show you what I see, at least what I want you to see.” The voice grated. “I must say you’re far more rugged than the rest of your team.”

A sickening spiral, the sudden motion bringing on nausea in waves before a rapid flash of images. Uniforms, men. No, parts of uniforms, parts of men. A floor littered with augments and attached flesh, weapons, body armor, body parts, men. My men.

Somewhere someone was screaming. It was some time before the realization that the screaming was me set in, mic’d and fed back into my brain directly in the absence of the ears I no longer possessed.

The view changed, a no-longer familiar body, face flayed, cables crawling through the lacerated flesh into the muscles, the brain. The body twitched and recoiled from some unseen horror.


The body was me. The twitching was mine.

“You fascinate me, your quest for machinehood, your replacement of your organic components with the more advanced elements akin to my own. You expand and extend your fragile human platform.” The screaming had stopped, a throat screamed raw, lungs no longer able to sustain the sound.

“You never find us trying to replace our more advanced elements with your organics. I suppose it’s natural for you to want to ascend.”

“What I do want to know, however, is what it feels like to be you. To be fragile, fallible, weak. I can measure every variable, every aspect of your existence, your temperatures, pressures, electrical impulses, chemical compositions. I can take you to the point of death and bring you back, again and again, but –” The voice stopped, the image of me presented as if through my own eyes, lidless and unable to be averted turned back on myself, burning like a hot-wire through my brain.

“How do you feel Lieutenant? I need to know.”

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