Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

The place never failed to depress me. You can’t polish a turd. The walls of the waiting area were painted off white and they had made an effort to buy a superior quality of cheap, shabby furniture. Around the corner it was different. The walls were an institutional green. The mortar was falling off the cinder block walls. The VA hospital had been built sometime in the last century and looked it. The patients looked it too.

My arm had been acting up again. It was probably older than I was. I often wondered about the guy who had it before me. It was an artificial black. I was a natural white. Not a good match, but what the hell do they care.

Most of the people waiting in the “lounge” as they called it were quiet. Some sleeping. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were homeless and had been awake somewhere all night and came here to sleep when the doors opened in the morning.

A quadriplegic sat down next to me. I could see the framework of his aluminium and carbon exoskeleton underneath his grimy nylon track suit. A lead from the suit snaked up from a collar around his neck and jacked into the port behind his right ear.

His limbs vibrated slightly as the skeleton tried to make sense of the random firings of the brain at rest. He’d been plazed. He raised a paper cone of coffee to his lips. I expected him to spill half of it over himself, but he handled it with great aplomb.

Normally I keep my mouth shut. I just want to get in and get out so I can head back to my shitty flat and get drunk. This time I didn’t. I wish I had.

“Luna,” I asked.

“Mars.”

“Corps?” Mars was fairly crawling with Marines since the insurrection.

“Army.”

“No shit. I was Army too. I got this beauty on Europa.” I tried to lift my mechanical negro arm. It whined noncommittally and failed to move. He turned his head to look me in the eye. His limbs shivered harder from the mixed signals it was receiving.

“You always talk this much?”

“No, I… um…,” I shut up.

“It’s okay. You felt like you had to talk to me, right?”

“Yeah, it’s weird because…,”

“Because, you just want to get your nigger arm adjusted, go back to your pathetic shit hole of an apartment and drink yourself to death.”

“Hey, who the fuck are you…”

“Relax, you know who I am.”

I thought for a moment. “No. No. Oh God, No!”

“Good for you. Give the boy a cigar. It’s time for reveille. Wakey wakey, eggs and baky…”

I awoke just in time to feel the nurse yank the lead from the port behind my right ear. Doctor Mayerson stood at my side. “I’m sorry Sergeant. The nerve attenuation from the plasma blast is incompatible with the fractal rate of the exoskeleton available to you. I’m sorry; we can do nothing for you now. Perhaps, if you have civilian insurance… No? Too bad you weren’t an officer.”

I looked down to where my arms and legs had been and screamed.

 

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