Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Judy knelt on the pavement, struggling to process the confusion of the moment, the familiar form on the ground before her, the woven mass of tubing and wires snaking off into a sea of blinking lights and chirping boxes.

She was kneeling beside a man lying supine on the asphalt, his eyes unfocused and staring towards the stars. A dark grey blanket had been laid across his torso from one shoulder to the opposite hip, wide tape of an even darker grey securing it both to his uniform and the ground beneath him. Her eyes traveled across her husband’s still form, from the trickle of blood striping his cheek to the point beneath the grey fabric where he became unfathomably thin. There were dark marks forming on the grey where the fluids they were pumping into him were defying all attempts to keep them from seeping out again.

Farther up the street a white jet of flame sent molten alloy and smoke streaking into the night as a crew began cutting open what must have been the assailants vehicle. A long length of track sprawled abandoned on the pavement where it had been jettisoned in mid flight, followed by the deep rift the ATV’s unshod wheels had torn in the ground before being turned almost sideways and forced to a stop. Smoke billowed from the fatal wound a rocketeer had scored in its armor.

A hand clasped at hers, snapping her attention back to the man on the ground, his eyes suddenly focused and riveting. It was the voice of another officer though that broke the silence.

‘Ma’am, we’ve got tissues in the tank already, clone’s pretty much 80% complete, but we need you to authorize the transfer.’ The uniformed figure crouched down in front of her, but she wouldn’t unlock her gaze from her husbands. ‘Ma’am – we’ve only got a few minutes to move here, it took a while to get you here, and he’s in worse shape than last time.’ He paused, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. ‘Ma’am – the unit’s all ready and if we don’t get the transfer done now, we’re going to lose him, and if he dies, we can’t bring him back.’ The voice was quiet for a long moment before he spoke again, trying too hard to sound optimistic and failing. ‘Hell, he’s gone through this half a dozen times already, he could probably do the procedure himself if he wasn’t so banged up.’

Judy looked up at the anxious face of the man fidgeting beside her, then around at the scene. A medivac vehicle hovered a few meters away, just on the other side of a circle of light being cast by a clutter of hastily deployed equipment, all of it straining to keep her husband alive. Again. She knew exactly how this would go, the months it would take to grow the last of him, the physiotherapy he’d need to learn how to use a newly grown body he’d only been able to keep intact for a year this time. The memory lapses, the bits of him that wouldn’t come through, and the haunting nightmares of all of these accumulated moments of finality.

‘We’ve been here too many times before. You don’t get him back this time.’ Her husband clenched his eyes shut as she spoke, tears joining the other fluids streaking his face, his hand squeezing hers.

‘Ma’am – I’ve got orders from the Chief, we don’t have time..’ She cut him off abruptly. ‘Last I checked Sergeant, the Chief wasn’t wearing his ring, so you can tell him we’re done. You can call our Union rep if you want to argue, but in the meantime, turn him off. Turn all of this shit off, and leave us alone.’

A weary hand gradually cooled in hers, and she as she looked into his eyes, she saw a peace there she hadn’t seen in a long, long time. She had no choice but to let him die tonight. She knew neither of them could survive him ever being killed again.

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