Author: Glenn Leung

Levi ducked around the corner, cowering as the teenagers closed in with their crowbars, pipes and other hard-hitting objects. He wanted to run, but his brass soles would give him away. He had no choice but to extract the soft plastic layer from his arms, which was synthesized just before the onset of the genetic revolution. He did his best to wrap it on his feet, but they could only do so much to offset the weight of his lower limbs, an amalgamation of scrap metal found in the ruins of pre-Heritage war Detroit.

Gingerly, he tip-toed towards the entrance of the waterway; the noise from the teenagers’ ruckus inadvertently helping him out.

“Your time’s up, Scrappy!” shouted one of the boys.

Levi had been called Scrappy for the past ten years, but only after last month when the anti-prosthetics won control of parliament did it amount to any real threat. Within a few days, people close to him were dismantled by roaming vigilantes, their parts used as replacements and ornaments for their macabre toys. The leader of this particular gang had Evelyn’s face tied to the front of his bike. She and Levi had had theirs synthesized from twentieth-century opera masks. Levi had chosen a cast-iron one, while she had chosen a smoother design made from porcelain. Now with the nanomachines removed, she was locked in a permanent, silent scream.

Levi grabbed the bars of the portcullis and pulled, the pistons in his forearms huffing and churning in a desperate bid to save his life. But the portcullis was too heavy, and his mechanical arms, made from the machinery of the Heritage war, gave out with a loud hiss of steam. This alerted the teenagers, and they were onto him faster than he could remove the padding on his feet. They started swinging at him, metal on metal. Levi tried to protect himself, but his arms were useless now. A crowbar connected with his face, knocking out his right eye. It was made from synthetic aqueous humor during the post-war depression; the cheap material was no match for a stomp with a boot.

The mob dragged him to their leader, a studly young man with skin smooth as silk and eyes with a yellow hue that lit up in the dark of night. He was a ‘designer baby’, the product of genetic research arising from the squalid necessities of the depression. He came from a family that could not afford even cheap prosthetics, whose only choice was to wait for gene manipulation to become widely available as welfare. His father, a victim of multiple diseases, had died before he was born.

“Witness the end of history!” shouted the leader as he raised his pole. In one superhuman stroke, he brought it down on Levi to the cheer of his underlings. The pole hit his right shoulder, forcing a sputter of oil, steam, and blood from his already damaged joints. A second stroke caved in his forehead, blowing out his remaining eye. Levi felt no pain, having had his nervous system removed years ago. He was reminiscing the days with Evelyn when the third stroke smashed through to his brain, one of the last created through natural birth.

After that night, tales spread among the frightened prosthetic community of the bike with two faces: a smile and a scream.