Author : Jeremy Koch
Sasha lay on a rust-flecked chrome slab under the rewriter’s dim green light, wincing slightly every few seconds as the self-service amputator locked into place. It slid a sequential series of nine hollow spikes, each six centimeters long, easily into the flesh of her arm, just below the elbow; this was always the worst part, painwise, but it’d be over soon. It was worth it.
The final needle pierced her skin, and then muscle, finally bone. The flow actuator kicked to life with a shudder and a low chugging sound – disturbing, but she was well-used to it now. This was her fourth designer phenotype since her arrival.
The smell – a rank, antiseptic stench of sizzling chlorine – hit her nose just as the amputator’s work became visible. The veins of her forearm and hand pulsed a deep chemical green, and the skin began paring away from the muscle as before an invisible flenser. Blood pooled and then erupted into microscopic bubbles, turning instantly to coppery steam as it pumped from her disintegrating arteries. By this time, the pain was dissipated – indeed, impossible, as her nerve clusters had already gone up in an acrid mist seconds before.
The machine’s clunking sped up. She watched, as always, with glammered fascination as the last of the skin dissolved and muscle peeled back, fiber by fiber, exposing bone that took on a beetle-wing sheen before it too began to crackle and deteriorate. Within minutes the actuator wound down; Sasha was left gazing serenely at the vaporous stump of her left arm.
Deadened nerves in her upper arm registered vague cold as the flow actuator restarted, this time emitting a vigorous sloshing. A pinkish mix of engineered viral solution and bioaccelerant coursed through the hollow spikes; presently viscid, vein-roped masses protruded from the precisely shorn remnant of her arm. New bone, glistening with fresh leukocytes spontaneously generated by the stimulated marrow, sprung violently forth and rapidly sprouted a web of whitish sinew. She felt detached cracking as the ossified growth bent and twisted, forming a wrist joint, and then split, fanning out into five scrabbling fingers. Sasha regarded this consideringly, and, with her intact hand, adjusted a dial on the rewriter’s console. Two of the five fingers split again, and she nodded, satisfied, as the seven digits waved and flexed.
Threads of hard muscle the matte color of gunmetal, woven together with capillaries of contrasting, sanguinary red, enveloped the pulsing bone from humerus to metacarpals. Keratinous talons flared from the fingertips with a series of fleshy pops, casting tiny droplets of pink froth across the table. They’d be retractable when the procedure was done; for now they gleamed wetly beneath the ambient illumination.
It was almost finished now. She could perceive feeling creeping back into her limb, as a light itch she had come to relish, and strove to master her excitement till the machine had completed its work. The itching crescendoed and crossed into pain; with ground teeth, she studied her skin knitting itself neatly over reinforced bone and hyperoxygenated muscle. Then it was over – the nerves settled into sync with her brain, and she carefully curled her new hand into a loose fist. The needles retracted, leaving oozing holes, and Sasha reached for a packet of iodine and gauze. After applying them, she stood and spread her wings with a yawn, the emerald tint of their translucent membrane nearly invisible under this light. “I already can’t wait to do this again,” she thought as she sought the exit. “Next time I’m getting the brain job.”
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