Author : E.S Wynn
“The 882 looks cool.” Cylea glanced up, grinned. “How much for the 882?”
The old man gave her a quick glance, eyes wary over spectacles that stood out like antique flair garnered from a bygone age. His reply came solidly. “I can’t sell you the 882.”
“Why not?” She cocked her hip, let her eyes wander to the thing again. It was the next step up from the tungsten knuckle reinforcements she’d been looking at, a total arm rebuild that would replace flesh and bone with nanocarbon alloys and memory plastics– a near human approximation of an arm with a central cavity that was packed tight with the razor-edges of a collapsible, spring-loaded blade. “It’s better than a switchblade.”
“You don’t want the 882.” He said gruffly, turning away to busy himself with a collection of parts, optics and tiny cylinders packed with nanogenic goo that lay spread across the tool bench. He quivered, hands taken by tremors for an instant.
Curiosity flickered across her face. “Is there something wrong with it?”
“No, It’s a good product, solid design.” He sighed, his own eyes drifted up to meet the dusty overhead display and the flickering advertisement for the rebuild. “Great deal for the money.”
“Then why?” She asked pointedly. “It’s just an arm.”
The old man nodded silently, tiredly. “Just an arm.” He repeated. His hands touched the tools, glanced off the handle of a modified bone-saw that lay with its harsh circular blade submerged in sterile solution. “Just an arm.”
“Daniel?” She tried. He turned back, regarded her with bespectacled eyes.
“It’s a prosthetic, Cylea. I’d have to remove your forearm to install it.” He laid two greasy fingers on his wrinkled skin to illustrate, smeared grubby lines just a few inches short of the elbow, looked at her pointedly. “Think about it. You don’t want the 882.”
“I know what it is, Dan.” She looked away, crossed her arms. “Why should I care how much flesh it takes? The 882 is better than the stock I was born with. It’s Techware.”
“It’s an illegal streetmod is what it is. Black market,” He shook his head. “From Hong Kong.”
“So?” She shot back. “It’s not like I’m going to join the military or anything. Who’ll know?”
Dan sighed again, watching her for a long moment as his old hands settled on the table between them.
“How old are you, Cylea?”
“And you want to spend the next eighty years of your life with a techware arm that would show up on any weapon-scanner or metal detector you’re likely to run into? You know what that means, right? No more college, no access to government buildings, no air-travel.” He paused. “All because it ‘looks cool’ and you think it handles better than a switch blade.”
“Buy the knuckle reinforcements, kid.” He turned his back on her, busied himself at the bench again. “Lots of people get those, respectable people. Trust me. The 882’s for punks and amputees with nothing to live for. People with no future.” She looked away as he paused, unable to even meet the stare his back seemed capable of reaching into her soul with.
After a moment, he turned back to her again, wiping his hands on a rag, and offered her a slight smile that was oddly comforting before his lips parted, words bringing her eyes back to his again.
“We both know you have some kind of future waiting for you out there.”
Cylea nodded, forced her own smile