Intercosmic - Chapter 9 - Basement

I make a fist with my right hand and release it. I feel it, my fingers in my palm, my nails are sharp because they never grow back evenly. A few stray hairs on my knuckles but not enough to be considered harry. The tiny black mole on my index finger. I haven’t had moisturizer since before Xioshaa, so there’s little spots of ashen grey on my arm. My elbows are rough to the touch and I still have the scar from when I fell off my hoverbike as a teenager and broke my wrist. I can see it all, and I can feel it. My shoulder still has that nagging cramp it would get sometimes, I can massage it and ease the pain.

There’s nothing there nothing below my shoulder but I can still see it, and feel it. No matter how many times they’ve told me over the last few weeks, it’s still there. I still reach for items with my right hand and I can’t grasp them. Even if I can visualize my hand moving and clutching an item, it just doesn’t happen. Everything is working just as it should, but nothing happens.

Just this damn metal nub poking out of my shoulder where my arm should be. Looking back at me every day. I can’t even bring myself to touch it. My shiny new accessory is just a reminder of how Creed screwed me over; screwed the team over. I don’t know if his team made it out alive, but If they did, he better hope I don’t find him. I’ve never taken joy in killing before, but I will take joy in ending his life.

“Mr. Gray, I’ve brought in your prosthetic,” a nurse enters.

“Really, I didn’t think I would get one. It’s been a while since the surgery.”

“No, sometimes there’s just a lot of paperwork. We wouldn’t send you out into the world without one.”

She unwraps the arm from the foam and plastic casing it was delivered in. She wipes it down with some cleaning wipes to make sure it’s sterile. A few wires from arm connect with some that were tucked inside my metal nub. With a push the arm locks into place where my original should have been. There’s nothing to download to my wrist comp, just plug it up and go. The warm ivory color of the arm stands out against the rest of my flesh.

“No other colors? Could I at least get blue, or green,” the nurse rolls her eyes at me.

“This is the basic model that everyone gets. This is the only color we have. You can either take it, or wait six months for another one Mr. Gray.”

“You can take it back then.”

“Not until you try to move it.”

“How am I supposed to move it?”

“Same way you would move the arm you so carelessly lost,” she smirked, and I deserved that.

To my surprise the arm begins to jerk about as I try to move it. Eventually, I manage to grasp the cup of water and lift it to my mouth. The arm shakes and freezes, but it does what I demand of it. That’s fine for now, but there has to be another option. They’ve shown me the magazines with different styles of prosthetics. Arms with wrist comps built in so you could easily use your real hand, hidden weapons for those who face combat, more abstract styles, even some that provide what can only be called super strength. They played me.

“What happened to the cool one I picked out in the magazine?”

“This is what they pay for, it has all the requirements.”

“Then why show me the other models if I was just going to end up with this?”

“You know, if you walked around the hospital for a while, maybe got to meet some other patients you’d realize you are hardly in the worst condition. You lost an arm, big deal. Did you even notice both my legs are prosthetics? I’m a combat veteran too. Most of the people working here have seen combat and we have horror stories too,” she takes a look at my chart and vitals before exiting the room.

“Aren’t you going to clean up this mess?”

“Trash goes to the basement. You might as well get comfortable down there.”

“I can report you for treating a patient like this.”

“Then walk over to the other side of the building and report me,” she slams the door behind her.

She thinks she’s funny? I’m going to report her. Insubordination like that would never fly, if she had been a combat veteran like she claimed, she’d know that. I gather the trash and put on the sneakers that Casey dropped off from my apartment before he was shipped to his next mission. With the trash in my hand, I make my way towards the elevator.

“Where you going in such a hurry,” an older woman asks me.

“Basement,” I just keep moving.

Exiting the elevator, the smell of paint and smoke hangs in the air. The basement seems to hold various offices and workshops for the maintenance crew. I just follow the purple line that leads to the trash and dump the stuff as quick as I can. Making my way back, I notice a door open that had been closed on the way down the hall. The smell of paint seemed to be coming from that room, so I peek my head in. Inside are shelves full of prosthetic limbs left out to dry. Various colors, patterns and even murals cover them all.

“You here to get painted,” a deep voice says from behind me.

“What,” I hadn’t realized how far into the room I was.

“Painted,” A tall Smilodonian lifts my prosthetic into the air.

The Smilodonians, huge creatures, I’ve never seen one less than seven feet tall, despite that, they walk almost silently. They almost look like bipedal predator cats. Their bodies seem to be naturally muscular even beneath the fur, which would be terrifying alone. The large canine teeth extending over the jaw like fangs, the exoskeletons add an extra level of horror. They don’t start with exoskeletons, but the bones extend past the flesh to cover injuries. Sometimes it falls off, sometimes it doesn’t. They’re fearsome in battles and I’m glad I’ve never had to face off with one before.

“What is all of this?”

“I am Sasha Duboff,” he says releasing my arm. “I paint the prosthetics of people for a small fee. I assumed you wanted to get painted. The arm does not match your fur," he laughs.

“Okay, do you just pick a color and go for it?”

“No, you leave it here, and answer some questions. From there, the computer decides what you get.  I paint it. You pick it up when you are ready.”

“This is a very detailed operation you have.”

“We Smilodonians have a reputation for war but our strategy comes from studying the histories of others throughout the galaxy. You cannot study history without the arts. Music, literature, sculpture, painting and so on, it is as important as any story of war and glory. The stories of said glory cannot be told without it. ”

“I like that. Now, could you help me get this thing off.”

“Not even used to it yet and ready to get it painted. You humans are strange creatures. Never taking time to enjoy life beyond conquest.”

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