Robert made the same mistake every Spartan makes. He thought he was ready.
A thousand miles away they were stretching Michael out on the wall. He was naked and bleeding. They took out the tool that Michael recognized from his training and he switched his router on with a thought. Suddenly, the cold of the wall became distant, like a memory. He could feel cotton beneath him, skin on his forearm.
“I’m patched in to Lieutenant Michael.” said Robert, testing his restraints. “The rebels are about to begin.”
“I’m here,” said Dr. Wyatt, squeezing Robert’s muscular arm. Dr. Wyatt was an experienced doctor in physiology and psychology. This was her third substation session. Robert watched her lined face as if it was a mirror to his own.
They used the tool, and Michael watched as his body spasmed. He could see it happening, but it seemed unreal. All that blood made the scene look like a campy horror movie. They were asking him questions, but their voices were distant.
“Can you hear me?” asked Dr. Wyatt, holding Roberts screaming face as he strained against the padded restraints.
Michael saw his leg hanging like a loose sock, part of it no longer attached to him. He was making noise, very loud, and he wished he could turn the channel and watch something else.
Dr. Wyatt held Roberts eyes open. “Say it! Tell them the message!” she yelled. Robert screamed and forced his mouth around the words. A thousand miles away, Michael spoke with Roberts voice, spilling his lies to the rebel armada.
Michael felt his body dying. He transferred, his pattern floating into waiting receptors, thousands of miles away. He woke up on cotton sheets.
“There will be a little itching at first,” said Dr. Wyatt, leaning over him. “It’s the new body, it will take some adjustment.”
“Where is Robert?” asked Michael. Dr. Wyatt pointed across the room, where Robert was sleeping.
“You Spartans.” said Dr. Wyatt. “Do you think of nothing but your partners?”
“Nothing else.” Michael stood, wavering on his feet.
“You really shouldn’t do that right away,” said Wyatt. “Your body needs time to adjust. Besides, you’re a half inch taller now, it will take some getting used to.”
Michael shot her an annoyed glance, and stumbled across the room, to sit on the bed of his partner. “Robert.”
“He’s out. He’s been out three days.” said Dr. Wyatt, brushing silver hair back behind her ear.
Michael tried to wrap his head around the idea that what had happened a moment ago was actually a three day old memory. He swayed on his feet. “Why is he still out?”
“There is only so much the mind can take. He felt what happened to you.”
Michael touched Robert’s pale face. “Don’t be a wimp.” he said. “Walk it off.”
Robert cracked one eye open. “Can’t a man get any sleep around here?” he said, his voice hoarse. Michael laughed, feeling high and crazy all at once.
“The doctor doesn’t seem to think that you were awake.”
“What do doctors know?” said Robert. “I woke up as soon as I heard your voice. We are Spartans, no matter where you are, I will always hear you.”