Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Mersion stayed off the open streets, choosing to pick a much more demanding path through the cratered homes and rubble where the bombs had fallen.

His progress was further impaired by the amount of meat that he’d lost from his body. Blade wounds, projectile weapons, and shrapnel from close proximity explosions had cost him many kilos of flesh and were severely impeding his progress.

He hunched over his useless left leg, one hand plunged through what remained of the muscle to pinch a severed artery off against the bone, his fingers clenched tightly around the femur just above the knee, trapping the throbbing vessel.

He shuffled this way between the craters and remaining cover, lifting the shredded leg and moving it forward, then locking from the shoulder to the wrist, bracing himself while he stepped forward with his better leg.

Ahead he could make out the lights of the medical center. The artillery command respected these spaces and shelled around them into oblivion without so much as a tracer passing through the sanctified airspace.

A few streets North of his position he could hear tracked vehicles grinding their way through the battle-worn streets with screaming and dying soldiers stacked like cordwood inside.

Mersion staggered and shuffled as close as he dared to the hospital proper, gauging distance with his good eye based off an encyclopedic knowledge of two-dimensional objects and their relative sizes. Without depth perception, this was his only means for effective navigation, but it wouldn’t serve in combat. It would be best if he avoided further contact until he could grow a new eye.

He followed the fence line around what would have been the civilian parking area, turned briefly into a landing zone and now a dumping ground for anything brought through the front doors that couldn’t remain in the hospital itself.

Piles of bloodied uniforms, body armor, amplisuits reduced to their component pieces after likely having been cut away from their operators.

Most of the lighting was out, the medical personnel only leaving a pair of spots to illuminate the space immediately around the back doors, where the piles of refuse cast long shadows.

Inside the facility would be surgeons, grafting equipment, pain killers and antibiotics, and certain death.

Mersion continued along the fence-line away from the building to the back of the lot.

At the farthest edge of the asphalt stood a row of steel shipping containers, their doors propped open and the stench of rotting flesh hung in air thick with slow buzzing flies.

He turned his free hand thumb down, pushed its remaining fingers through the wire mesh of the fence and then let gravity and the monofilament webbing between thumb and forefinger split the fencing to the ground.

He pushed through the opening and staggered into the darkness of the nearest container.

As his eye cycled through various frequencies to find an acceptable level of clarity, a mountain of carnage presented itself. Limbs and limb fragments, all forms of discarded human flesh heaped neatly furthest from the doors and thrown without decorum at the other once the smell became a barrier to entry.

This was precisely what he needed.

Mersion waded to the nearest pile and allowed his eviscerated leg to fold up ungracefully beneath him, then stretched out on a bed of body parts.

The nanos in his system went to work immediately, greedily spreading from his body to the meat below, encasing both his and the discarded body parts in a white, almost silk-like shroud as they disassembled the waste material and began the slow process of macerating the flesh before refabricating the Mersion unit.

He was in no hurry now. There was no shortage of raw materials. He wouldn’t have to make do with a field-prep hot patch repair. He wouldn’t have to go back into combat with limited capacity.

Not this time.

These humans would be taught that if you down a Mersion unit, you’d best be sure you’ve finished the job.