Author: Sean MacKendrick

Ava touched the seam where Ethan’s robotic foot joined his shin. She stared up at her grandfather in awe. “Can you feel anything with it?”
Ethan forced a smile on his face. “Some basic sensory input. It helps me walk better when I can feel the ground.”
“You’ve had it for a long time.”
“Ever since the war. I got this upgrade after my very first tour out.”
“I bet it hurt a lot.”
“It hurt at the time.” Ethan rubbed the scar over his eyebrow, where they dampened his ability to process pain. “Not so much now.”
Ava ran her finger down the smooth carbon alloy of Ethan’s thumb. “Probably pretty scary, though.
Ethan massaged the tiny pucker on the back of his neck, where they went in to ablate his fear response. “A little.”
“They say soldiers came back changed from the war because it was so scary.”
“Who says that?”
“I don’t remember. Someone on TV.”
“Well, that someone should learn his facts.” Ethan adjusted his posture to take some of the pressure off the pneumatics supporting his lumbar vertebrae. “I’m the same man who signed up all those years ago.”
“But why did you sign up? Didn’t you know it was going to be so dangerous?”
“I knew. But I wanted to help make the world safer for people like you and your mom.”
Ava rested her chin on Ethan’s rebuilt knee. “We heard in history class about some of the war crimes they charged the leaders with, afterward. I hope they didn’t make you do bad things.”
Ethan pressed his knuckles against the furrow on his sternum, where a grieving father failed to pierce his heart. He said nothing.
“Maggie’s granddad was in the war, too. She says he can’t sleep at night sometimes, because of his memories.”
Ethan rubbed the scar behind his ear where they removed his empathy. “I sleep all right.”