Threshold

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

The big bike tugged at his gloves, pleading for the roll of the wrist that would send the 6 cylinders into a frenzy of combustion and release. Patience. He eased out of the garage, coasting down the parking ramp onto the drive before gently throttling up to escape the confines of the ‘civilized’ community in which he lived.

Outside this walled world, miles of twisting and drifting asphalt were waiting.

The smell of hot metal and spent fuel evaporated in a torrent of burnt rubber, and then nothing but the rush of country air as he stretched out atop the gargantuan engine held aloft by two massive gyroscopes of alloy and polymer veneer.

This was what it meant to be alive.

The tach alarmed through each gear shift, redline overlaid in his visor as he pushed the hardware as far as his courage would allow. 200 kilometers came and went in a heartbeat as the world rushed towards him through the ghostly image of the speedometer, the machine purpose built for speed tightening and tuning on the fly. The countryside blurred, thousands of milestones on the periphery of his vision turned liquid in a single stream of molten landscape.

A sudden sharp rise in the road forced the suspension to load up, and as the bike flew over the crest of the hill, that potential released as bike and rider caught air and flew. The sudden rush of adrenaline and endorphins lasted only a fraction of a second before the image of a truck crashed through the ‘260’ emblazoned in his visor, through his brain and turned his world dark.

The light was faint at first, and there was the sound of some throaty beast heaving breaths nearby, keeping time with the rising and falling of his chest.

Antiseptic, and ammonia, the smells were unmistakable and cut through the haze. The light was bright now, and defined as he opened his eyes to the silhouette of a woman hovering over him.

“Nathan… Nathan, can you hear me?” The voice was pleasant, calming. A different voice spoke from somewhere nearby, one almost familiar. “Yes… what happened? Where am I?” Nathan realized the words were his own.

“You were in a terrible accident Nathan, you’re in the hospital now, you’ve been here for some time. It’s a good thing your RAAC tag was up to date.” He vaguely recalled the ‘Resuscitate At All Cost’ tag he’d been issued when he reached his eighteenth birthday and his donor commitment was up.

“They’ve done a wonderful job with you.” The cheerful voice moved around him now, straightening sheets.” I was able to get you prime plus a quarter on a twenty five year term, so you’ll be able to make reasonable payments. You were partially at fault, so the Insurance company only covered the basics. We’ll go over the documentation with you when you’ve started rehabilitation.” Nathan’s mind reeled, twenty five years of payments on what? He felt a sudden rush of anxiety.

“There will also need to be a change in your accommodations once you’re released. You’ll go through mandatory integration into a restricted community.” The woman stopped fussing for a moment and stepped back.

“Restricted?” Nathan puzzled aloud.

“Oh, yes, restricted. You lost both legs, one arm from the shoulder and one from the elbow. Your jaw and voicebox have both been replaced as have your kidneys, spleen and a significant portion of your digestive tract. Your left lung and two valves in your heart are new and your torso has been extensively reskinned. You were above the threshold for integration for a while there Nathan, until your second kidney failed, but I’m afraid that tipped the scale.”

“Scale?” Nathan’s voice shook as the scope of his injuries began to set in.

“The Scale Nathan, your Humanity Index. I’m afraid with the amount of synthetic material in you, you no longer meet the burden of humanity, and as such we can’t exactly integrate you with the mainstream communities. You’ll be found work, of course, and a residence. Don’t worry Nathan, we won’t abandon you, we do pride ourselves on being humane.”

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