Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Erik had been in this room before, although it seemed smaller this time.

“Please, Lieutenant Skane, have a seat.” The room’s other occupant was well weathered, maybe not retirement age, but close to it. The bars on his uniform, like the lines on his face, were as much a measure of mileage as of seniority.

Erik pushed his way awkwardly between the chair and the sparse desk, wedging himself between the arms of the seat and feeling the metal complain as he lowered his considerable mass into it.

“Lieutenant, I understand you’re inquiring about discharge; I was hoping we could convince you to stay.”

Erik met the officers gaze, caught the briefest glimpse of discipline tempered revulsion, and looked away.

“I want my old body back. I want you to undo what you did. Looking like this isn’t any use to Ops anymore, and sure as hell it’s no good for me.”

The old man sat back, steepling his fingers. “Splicing in gene code to bring out your current… characteristics, that’s one thing, but excising that code now that it’s physically manifest, I’m afraid that’s just not possible.”

“You made me, made me look like this, made me look like…,” his nose vents flared as his anger grew, “made me look like them,” he finally hissed.

“Yes, and coupled with your training and rather unique qualifications your looking like them allowed you to go where no one else could go. You were instrumental in our victory; you should be proud.” He opened his arms wide in a gesture of welcome Erik knew he could not possibly mean. “Your people are very proud of you.”

“My people? I have no people now. I’m nowhere close to human, and you exterminated everyone of what you turned me into. You didn’t bother to tell me I’d wind up alone and stuck looking like this.”

The officer folded his hands neatly in his lap, addressing Erik as one might speak to an unruly child. “As I recall, you agreed to this project because, and I quote, you had ‘nothing to lose’.” The old man frowned, shaking his head. “You were pretty clear about that when you were trying to get yourself killed in Special Ops. We saved you from yourself Erik, gave you purpose, cleaned your slate. You can’t just expect everything to go back the way it was before.”

Erik shifted uncomfortably, feeling the chair begin to buckle beneath him. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve seen things…” he paused, a sudden surge of anxiety overwhelming him, for a moment. “I just can’t do this anymore.”

“Well, we could put you back into an infantry unit; your Special Ops status would clear you to go anywhere you wanted.”


“Deep space? Engineering?” He counted off options on his fingers. “There are mining colonies on several higher-than-Earth-gravity planets where…”

“No,” Erik cut him short “I’m done.”  He stood up, awkwardly extracting himself from the chair. “When you made me, nobody ever said you couldn’t unmake me.”  He turned, and found himself face to face with an unfamiliar reflection in the polished metal of the door. It stared back, half again as tall as he should be, the harsh light creating highlights on the black matte of his scales. In three years, he still couldn’t connect himself to what stared back at him from every mirror.

He opened the door, hiding the reflection. “I may have had nothing to lose then, but I always figured one day I could have something to lose if I wanted to. I guess I had that to lose after all.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows