Author : Trent Isaac
The man wrestled a pile of rods, plates, wires, lights, and fingers through the door and let it crash in a heap.
“Or there’s this one,” the man said as he swabbed his bald head with a towel.
Brennan scratched his arm through the frayed hole in his sweater as he compared the two robots. One was nearly seven feet tall. Its white plastic helmet and gloves gleamed, and its black body reflected bits and pieces of the robots on display around it. The second robot looked like a skeleton marionette that had been buried by an avalanche and left to rust and petrify. The man wrapped the second robot’s boney, copper arms around the waist of the nearby security robot to stand it up.
Brennan read the patch on the man’s uniform. “Johnny?”
Johnny looked up.
“Is he supposed to only have one leg?”
“Uh… no.” Johnny chuckled. “For the missing leg, I’ll drop this little guy’s price to 5,000 dollars.”
He patted the robot on the back and the metal man’s right eye popped out and shattered on the floor.
“Or if you want to leave here with absolutely no worries, you can take this specimen for just 3,000!” He motioned to the black and white giant. With a shrug of his shoulders, he added, “We overstocked.”
Brennan eyes rested on the limp marionette. The ding at the corner of the android’s mouth gave the bot a crooked grin. Brennan gripped the multi-tool in his pocket.
“Okay, I’ll take him.”
The man nodded and punched some numbers into the giant’s back. The robot whirred and its eyes flickered on.
“No, the one-legged one!”
“Brennan?” called a feeble voice.
“Yes, Grandma, look what I found!” he said as he rounded the corner into her bedroom. The robot followed, rolling on his modified foot. Brennan hoped his grandmother would think he had found the robot by the side of the road. His grandmother might not approve of him spending money this way, but she wouldn’t throw away something that still had use in it.
“Oh, Brennan, I don’t need that thing,” said his grandmother. She straightened her shoulders and looked at him from her chair. Lifting her arm, she pointed at him with her bone-like finger.
“Listen here,” she said. But a cough stopped her. To him, the cough sounded like a car backfiring. She swallowed, opened her mouth, and coughed again, and could not stop until she had drunken a glass of water.
“I’m going to be gone most of the day, now that I’m moving rubble for Mr. Fleischman’s company,” Brennan said quietly. “It’s a nice robot, Grandma.”
His grandmother looked the mechanical man over.
The metal stick figure tilted his head at her. Then the robot zipped across the floor and reached out his boney hand. His fingers clicked in their sockets as he stroked her shoulder. The android’s other hand took the glass she was holding and returned it to the stand. He lifted the pitcher of water and refilled the glass in slow, jerky motions.
The wrinkles on her face relaxed and she said, “Yes, I see that now.”
She closed her eyes and crossed her feet, her real foot sliding over the prosthetic one.
Author : Sierra July
She never contemplated a lack of hands. Limbs constructed while the mind dottled, trying to catch up. Limbs operated when the mind was elsewhere.
Limbs were what they wanted when they came down in dazzling light; the ship seethed it titanium molding, red-hot form air travel, travel that would have split lightning in two, jagged.
She wriggles her phantom fingers, memories of appendages that grasped thoughts and dreams when her mind wasn’t yet made up. Brains hi-jacked control from hands, that’s what she believed. Neurons and synapses and the like firing signals to themselves, each other, couldn’t compute to all that she was.
Wrinkles, creases littered her hands when they were hers (still hers, unattached) maps connecting and crossing to form her life in retrospect. And they didn’t have her brain’s dingy grey coloring. Scars from burns and abrasions spoke incandescent stories to whoever studied them. Things that felt hard, unbreakable as quartz, went out like air whipped flame.
Voices tickle her consciousness.
“Subject: #101773. Name: Hisano Sora. Here for limb transfusion.” The man’s voice grows prickly. “How the devil did she lose her hands anyway? Cuts are clean.”
“The Visitors, sir.”
“Ah . . . Perfect subject for the transfusion.”
“Yes, sir.” A younger voice, a male not yet struck by puberty.
A device touches her, she thinks. She can’t be sure. Her neck brace is keeping her from seeing, metal jaws clutching at her jugular. Before she can feel the panic, the brace on her neck is called off, as are the ones on her wrists and ankles. She bolts up and studies her hands. (Hands?) Yes, she has them, flexible and solid, and blue.
“What is this?” she says aloud.
“Plutonarium Ice Fixtures, sweetheart,” she hears the older man say. “They did Pluto a discredit, hacking it off the planet list. Pluto ice makes the best prosthetics. Can’t melt, can’t break.”
What is a hand? A mere tool or a part of her? She misses the marks that were hers, the memories. The new hand is close to her face, the left one. She’s transfixed by the sheen, the glassy glow. It reacts, gripping her neck.
“Oh no, now it looks like she’s experiencing a delayed side effect. There shouldn’t be any . . . unless of course her arm . . .” The older man’s voice sounds unconcerned, like he’s watching television. Her vision blurs.
“The Visitor’s love arm manipulation, sir,” Young Guy says. “Her hands were the least of her worries.”
Her arms? That was her problem? She looks at the flesh of her arms for the first time, a shade too dark. Or was that the blackness swallowing her? Were these her arms or . . .
Author : Dave Rigby
Steve sat in the beige waiting room idly flipping through channels on the tv, not stopping on any for more than the few seconds of allotted free viewing so as to not incur an automatic charge. At home he had a pretty decent entertainment package with no overrun fees but he couldn’t afford the roaming package so any entertainment here would cost him. He went to run his fingers through his hair but stopped when the stump of his right elbow came in to view. Phantom limb syndrome had been tough when he first lost the arm, it was ten times worse when the prosthetic was removed, but he knew at least that meant that it was still transmitting from wherever it was.
At last his name was called. Entering the room he knew straight away that he wouldn’t be leaving with his arm today. The cardboard box waiting on the table was all too familiar.
“Sorry Steve” Andy the technician emerged from an adjoining room “We won’t be able to get it fixed today. The knuckles are shot and we don’t have enough spares for your model”
“When?” asked Steve glumly.
“Tuesday at the earliest. You can manage without for a few days or you can take the loaner. Your choice”
It wasn’t a choice really.
“I’ll take the loaner”
“Ok cool. You know the drill, take a seat, prep your ports and get ready to sync.” The technician picked up the box and slid out the loaner. It was at least 3 generations older than Steve’s current arm. It hadn’t looked realistic when it was new but now the imitation skin had taken on a yellow colour in-between the assortment of stains and scratches it had acquired through years of service. It was a basic arm, no networking, no display, not even realistic fingernails. On the hand the rubbery skin was stretched and thin so you could almost see through to the aging gears and servos below. Steve had brought gloves just in case “Have you given any more thought to upgrading? I can keep repairing your arm but it’s not going to last forever”
“Can’t afford to upgrade” said Steve as he slid his stylus out of a slot on his arm and ran it around his stump. Tiny latches released and the port caps opened all the way around. He moved the stylus behind his left earlobe in preparation for the re-synch.
Andy moved the arm in to place then slid back a panel on the back of the wrist to reveal the sync and power controls.
“Ok here we go, powering on, ready to sync. Hit it”
Steve braced himself and hit the button behind his ear. His phantom arm disappeared as his mind severed its connection. A moment of almost pleasant release and lightness came and went then was replaced by sickening feelings of pain and loss from his shocked nerves and memories of the accident. He almost cried out, and then it was over. The new arm felt heavy and cumbersome but it would do.
“A quick check and then you can go. Make a fist for me” After a moment of concentration Steve did it. “Good. Now move each finger one at a time” Steve did that too, much faster this time. “OK great, now finally play me some Rachmaninoff” Steve showed Andy his middle finger instead. Andy chuckled. “I guess that will do. You’re good to go. Call if you have any problems and I’ll see you Tuesday”
“See you Tuesday” Steve said as he pulled his gloves on.
Author : Sierra Corsetti
He’s late again, which is becoming the norm. Unless he decided to jump off a high-rise on Level Three without his parachute again, I have no reason to worry.
I’m on Level Twelve in a bar that stinks of vomit and cheap liquor. Like Rex’s lateness, that’s not unusual either. Toilets don’t flush up, and when you’re at the bottom of a twelve-story city, you’re fresh out of luck.
I strum a few more notes on my guitar and unplug from the amplifier. Nobody’s listening and I’m not getting paid, so what’s the use?
They finally want me up top. The Dean sent a nice little note this morning saying if I come up, I’ll have all my training paid for and my mom will get the best care they can give her. And I’ll have a job where I can get a view of something more than gutters. But…
Rex shows up and throws back the rest of my drink before I realize what he’s doing.
“Let’s get out of here,” he says.
I sling my guitar across my back, toss some money to the bartender, and follow him outside. We step onto his hoverboard, me with my arms wrapped around his waist from behind, and take off.
He smells like fuel and grease, with a hint of the soap he uses to try and scrub the grime off. It’s all familiar to me, a part of me that I can’t imagine living without. I reach up for a moment to ruffle his hair, and know from the way his head tilts that he’s smiling.
The ride takes an hour, with transfer stations and all, but we finally set down on the top of the med center on Level One. We can see the sunset from here, but I suspect Rex chose here tonight because he knows something’s up. When I called him, I told him I wanted to talk. We both know that’s never a good thing.
“You could have all this,” he says after a long silence, and sweeps his arm to indicate the horizon. The honey-red sky lights the reflective windows of the tall buildings on fire, nearly blinding us if we look at them from the wrong angle.
“You could help people,” he presses when I don’t reply. “Sick people. Like your mom.”
But nobody can help my mom’s ALS. Even with all the prosthetics and drugs that enhance liver performance and muscle tone and eyesight and whatever else a person can possibly want.
“I could give her nurses and painkillers, nothing more.”
“It’s better than nothing.” Which is what she has right now, but he doesn’t say that.
And what would I have? More money than I’d know what to do with, a posh apartment, glamorous clothes, and people calling me Doctor Allie instead of ‘hey you.’
“But I wouldn’t have you,” I say, and turn to face him.
The look in his eyes could kill me, I swear.
“You’d make do,” he manages.
“And would you?” But he can’t answer that, and neither can I.
The sun’s nearly set now, and we’ve both begun to shiver in the growing dark. We’ll have to leave soon before the night security force comes out, but we can wait a little longer.
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
Hitler’s daughter was ruling with a penchant for experimentation.
She talked of a future where Aryans were recognized by their deeds and initiative, not by the colour of their skin or hair.
Controversial and beautiful, Hitler’s daughter was short with the same dark hair as her father.
She administered the shot that killed him in his hospital bed. Grey-haired, drooling, and given to fits at the end, it was the ministry’s decree that he be put out of his misery by his then sixteen-year-old daughter. The photograph is famous. Her chin is tucked into her chest and her straight black hair is falling over her eyes as she depresses the plunger on the syringe. The resemblance to her father in that moment in unmistakable and is belied only by a twinkle in her eye. His hand is grasping at the front of her uniform. If one squints just right, the shadow from his clawed hand coupled with his bent fingers almost form a swastika.
German medicine had come far. Top in the world when it came to longevity drugs, plastic surgery and prosthetic limbs. However she banned experimentation on the poor and homeless.
“There were still discoveries to be made”, she said, “but only by using the guilty”. The subtle accusation hidden in the statement by lumping the scientists in with the subjects was not lost on the scientific community. There was no doubt about how punishment would be meted out. The scientists would end up on their own bloody tables if they dared dismiss her rules in their dark laboratories.
She said that the future lay not in compassion but neither did it lie in brutality. She said in a historic speech that, “some things, while fragile, were still valuable to the empire. Even degenerates can see the beauty in the world of our new Empire”, she said. “Let them paint.”
The conquered Europeans had intermarried and mingled with the Japanese and Russians. Half-breeds were tolerated. The resulting beauties with their Slavic cheekbones and epicanthic folds had started to supercede the outdated Aryan ideal.
The first mixed-race officer of the SS had a medal pinned to his chest last week, for instance. The young ones, no matter their race, were anxious to serve for the glorious 4th Reich Europe, citing that their inner Aryan was probably more faithful and loyal than many of the meek and tender blue-eyed ghosts of German heritage. Such inflammatory rhetoric caused controversy but also brought attention to their fearless attitudes. It would be stupid to turn down manpower determined to help the empire and this was a new age, she said.
America’s economy was failing and while it was not economical to fight them conventionally, it was in everyone’s interests to wait and see how long it would take that country to starve. Some of the political commentary in today’s newspapers were calling it a Kalter Kreig or “cold war”.
She, herself, had a penchant for the folk music of the defeated Americas and allowed their import into the underground. American polkas and neo-jazz movements were sweeping through underground Europe. The Reich youth, like any youth, were embracing anything controversial that would anger their parents.
She is the face of The United Reich Territories. She is feared and loved.
She has charm greater than her father. She is patient.