While awakening and being returned into hypnotic “sleep” over and over; being automatically rolled out of the A-M for Dr. Echinoza’s inspection and Yoba Five’s gentle touch, feeding and rolling over, I completely lose sense of time. It could have been years, or hours. I feel an unnatural tingling in my hands and instinctively want to scratch but of course cannot. I’m securely bound to the gurney, face down this time. It seems that each time I’m sent back in, if I faced down, now I’m facing up and vice-versa. There is no pain, just total mild discomfort. Ants are crawling up both my arms and up my leg.
Another “out” session. This time I am facing up. Bal is asking questions. I have to focus on his voice – I thought I was dreaming again.
[end blog post #51]
[begin blog post #52]
“Can you feel your implants?”
“I can feel ants crawling up my arms and leg but of implants nary a crawling do I feel.”
“You’re a really bad poet Antierra. The tingling and itching is normal as the bionic parts are integrating with the biological. Can you flex your fingers for me?”
He puts his hand in mine and I squeeze. He yells and commands me to let go. I do, surprised at his reaction.
“What happened? Was there an electrical discharge from my body?”
“That would have been easier. You now have positronic command-linked “hardware” supplementing your biological structure with an approximately ten to one transfer ratio of force. You almost crushed my hand with your grip. Here, hold this.” He hands me what looks like a hard rubber ball.
“I want you to squeeze this with your right hand, then with your left. I want to measure the stress you put on it.”
“Try normal, if that means anything.” It doesn’t. I squeeze what I think is normal and the ball disintegrates.
“I’m sorry Bal. I can’t seem to control the effects of the squeeze.”
“Don’t worry, that will come with a bit of practice. Also, you will eventually feel the pain you cause your own flesh and you will crack your skin when you squeeze too hard. Your own flesh will bruise until it adapts. It will adapt very quickly, as will your skin – changing its encoding is part of the treatment.”
“What about my ankle, leg and foot, Bal? Are they like this, out of control too?” I feel excitement, elation and fear all at the same time. So many “what if’s” with this new body.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to get you standing to test that. But my guess is, yes, you’ll have the same problems adapting to your implants there. Would you like to stand?”
“Bal, I feel I’ve been lying down for years! Yes I certainly wish to stand.”
“It’s only been just over twenty-four hours actually.
Yoba Five comes over and unstraps me and helps me sit on the gurney. The light fades and I drop in her arms helpless. Before I pass out I notice she gingerly grabs my arms and holds my hands away from her. I close my fists on empty space.
As soon as I recover I’m helped to my feet and taken out of the old Jump Scout ship into the open part of Bal’s office. The “wall” swishes into place. They let go of me and I stand on both feet but can only feel one. I lift my feet, one at a time and watch them move. Gradually a new feeling comes to my positronic side and I manage to take several steps before I get confused and stumble.
Yoba Five grabs me from behind but again avoids my hands. Bal hands me a short stick to hold on to and I find I can control how much pressure I put on it. Then my foot regains some feeling and I walk some more. Then more. I stand on the left foot only and keep my balance without feeling any stress. This is good. I feel no pain anywhere in my body. Gradually I grow into a wild euphoric state of body and mind. I want to run out in the yards, screaming, shouting and laughing. I want to tell everybody on this stupid world how beautiful life can be if they just choose it so.
“Well now we know for certain the replacements worked as planned, that the cleaning is thorough and your healing complete, Antierra.” The soothing voice of Yoba Five fills me with pleasure.
“Thank you Yoba Five.”
The Cydroid’s laugh floats out to me like the music of a limpid mountain stream trickling down over moss covered rocks. “I’m YBA2. My twin is resting. But I can accept your thanks for her.”
“That is amazing. You are identical to her in every detail. Even in my heart I cannot tell you apart.”
“Neither can our lover Bal, most of the time, and he’s had us for many years.” And she leans over to the Doctor and kisses him hotly. I stare. She laughs at me.
“YBA5 obviously did not tell you we share everything in our family group. Everything. Naturally we share lovers. Why should they care? If one of us is in some way occupied or indisposed he does not have to go without our attentions. I’ve personally accompanied Dr. Echinoza on dozens of trysts to the southern hideaway. I did not always mention I was not YBA5, even though I know that his preference is for my youngest sister. Games of love are good if they harm no one. Cydroids do not chose to experience jealousy. It’s a thing that would be of no value to us.”
“I’m going to keep you under close observation for another day.” says Bal. “We still have four days to bring you out of retirement, girl. Let’s not take any chances with any malfunction of the positronic implants. You must be absolutely aware of them and confident of your control over them before you can return to your normal life here. You will be under close scrutiny because it is well known that no one recovers from Warmo’s treatments. I hope you are working on a solid story as to why you recovered so easily?”
“I have. If I’m questioned, the Inquisitor’s machine failed to crush my wrists. It only bruised me severely but never damaged any muscle or bone. I was released before the mistake was discovered. And will someone please, please, tell me if my lover has been found? Can I see her again, please?”
“Very convincing, Altarian. (He always says this with a barely repressed sneer, as if to say ‘well it’s your story and I don’t have to buy into it.’) You’re female so they won’t expect too much. They’ll likely accept your distraught state over the loss of your Cholradil lover and will warn you to settle down or face consequences. You will meekly accept the rebuke and be quiet. Things should return to normal. Just don’t grab any weapon or someone’s arm and crush it with your bare hands. And don’t be too quick to use that left foot in fighting. Only as necessary, you understand? Eyes and ears will be on you, and from you, on us. We want to destroy Warmo. Do your part as discussed and desist from doing more than agreed. Let us do our work.”
“I promise. Thank you again doctor, for everything. But mostly, thank you for saving Deirdre.”
“Your lover? What about me? Don’t you love me anymore?” And he smiles and winks at me as he says this.
“I am terribly embarrassed, doctor, I mean, Bal. You were correct, that was the drug talking, the misery I felt from losing Deirdre and the shock of the torture. I wanted to cling to someone real. No, I don’t love you, certainly not that way. I admire you and I respect you. You are free from any other attention or intention. But if you otherwise want me or need me, for that you need not ask. It’s yours.”
“Very understanding. I agree, you should be a Cydroid. We couldn’t do that but we made you a little faster and tougher than before. You are now a partially bionic being. Let’s hope our enhancements won’t be looked at too closely if they should get exposed by cuts in the arena. You will exercise caution?”
“Yes I will. I understand your concern. You have your people to worry about here and your hopes for change in this place. I’m here to help, not hinder. I will use the advantages you have invested me with to the best of my ability, Bal. Please convey my thanks and full admiration to XBA9.”
It’s YBA2 who answers. “That won’t be necessary. He does not do it for thanks or admiration, but for the experience and being part of an elaborate and complex game. We Cydroids play many games that endanger life. It’s often how we seek answers to existential questions that remain beyond ourselves. We have many abilities you do not have, such as blocking neural responses to pain. If we had to feel these worlds the way you do we would be in worse shape than the Cholradil. We will do our part. Get ready to do yours.”
Two days before the deadline, the doctor calls the handler office for two escorts to return me to my normal life. As a sign that I’m just another female gladiator slave the doctor pushes me out his door to stand naked and await my escorts. As I expected, they examine me, then take me to the wash troughs where they dump cold water on me. Then the feeding and since it’s late in the day, I’m led into a cage. To my shock and surprise I see a young trainee there.
“Deirdre!” I almost shout. I bite my lip to keep from crying out with the double pain of thinking they found her and brought her back to certain death, then realizing it isn’t Deirdre, of course – Cydroids never lie – but another young woman likely recently arrived into our killing fields.
[end blog post #52]