5.00 am. The alarm went off, gull-strident voices of the latest wall-rock borg-band shattering off the bare plaster walls of the apartment. Everything hurt. It took a second to flick of the alarm; ten minutes to drag the collection of scars and mends they called a body out of bed.
The apartment was new. It hadn’t seemed worth decorating it. New stuff didn’t matter and the old stuff - it all had memories attached. A fresh pot of syn-tea brewed on the side, slowing colouring in the narrow brew tube. That was one extra that was worth the trouble of caring about.
The thing lay on the table: blue glowing though the gloss-white synthetic skin as it charged. It was on its back - the fingers curled into its palm and the monofilament weave flexed tight over the joints. Like a dead spider.
User friendly, they called it, state of the art. The result of being lucky enough to have connections.
Charlie stood in front of the table, long legs braced against the persistent feeling of being off-balance, and stared at the thing, trying to think of it as her arm. Just detached and cold, plastic and monofilament instead of bone and skin. Fucking thing.
‘Fucking thing,’ she repeated out loud. ‘Fucking therapists.’
It didn’t need to be ‘her’ arm and she didn’t need to ‘rewrite the mind-map of her body’. The arm was a tool, that was all. It was like her gun and her squad-car - just something that let her function as a cop. Like the pain pills and anti-rejection meds and enforced psych-evals every other week.
Means to an end.
She dragged her t-shirt clumsily over her head, tossing it in the vague direction of the hamper. The bright over-head lights weren’t kind. Charlie made herself look at the scars. She didn’t remember them. She’d no linear memory of wounds and scabbing and the relief of healing to offset the jarring clot of twisted white scar-tissue. Last thing she remembered was a body that worked and a left arm that ran from her shoulder right down to her fingertips. Then she woke up in a hospital bed and it was gone.
Traumatic transhumeral amputation, the doctor’s called it. There was a whole history of her arm in her medical files. She’d read it more than once. The wrist disarticulation had occurred during the incident, a hollow point round just blowing it off her arm. Then a transradial amputation to excise damaged bone and flesh, followed by an unresponsive infection that - once the doctors were done and permissions signed - left her with a freckled stump, the end puckered with white scarred stitches.
Apparently that - waking up to the done deal of a severed, healed arm - was why she couldn’t accept her new arm. She couldn’t quite escape the feeling that her own arm had been stolen away in the night.
Charlie thought it was because it was her mother’s signature on the medical forms, and you couldn’t trust that bitch as far as you could throw her.
Just a tool. She picked up the arm - grimacing as it tapped into her nervous system and twitched to gruesome life - and shoved her stump into the padded bed roughly. It didn’t hurt - that’s what everyone told her. The interface had been embedded when she was in a coma - interface was a pretty word for systemic nanite infection - and the connection with the arm should be ‘seamless’. Charlie didn’t care what they said. She could feel the itch and prick of them against her skin - like the world’s worst case of pins and needles.
At the end of the arm, the fingers flinched and clenched. Relaxed again. Charlie ran through her morning systems-check of calisthenics. Well, one - grasping the brew tube to pour out a steaming hot mug. If it did that, Charlie figured, she could pull a trigger and punch things. All she really needed. She tossed back the brew, hissing away the heat of it, and headed for the bathroom. All she wanted.
The MMPD home base was a shell-shaped sprawl of glass and steel in the heart of the City. Nano-tinted glass ran black under the sunlight, shinily reflective and faceted as a bug’s eye. It was an eye of sorts. Charlie flashed her reflection a tight smile as she strode across the courtyard.
‘Hi, mom,’ she mouthed, before shoving the doors open.
Inside the building smelled like ozone, aggressively refreshed air pumped in to cover the smell of blood, sweat and cordite that clung stubbornly to the plaster and tiles. Drones dropped from docks on the ceiling, scanning Charlie from head to toe. Her arm, left leg (stapled together with pins from shin to hip) and ribs (rebuilt of plastic and monofibre) warranted a second scan.
Reports. The world was built of reports.
Finally they beeped her access. Charlie shook her head and headed to the lifts, leaning back against the glass as she listened to the drone-beep of departmentally approved music. It was supposed to be soothing. It made her want to punch someone on principle.
It felt good to be back in uniform - the structured slate-grey doing more than all the cutting edge prosthetics in the world to hold her together. It had been six months since she was here - six months that she remembered - but it still felt like home. For the first time in a long time, she felt that old upswing of ‘I can do anything’ confidence. It felt good.
She pulled herself up straight, hooking her thumb into her belt. A grin tweaked the corner of her mouth as the lift bounced to a stop, the door opened and Charlie stepped out into...hell. It as like a gut punch, knocking all that stupid confidence out of her and leaving her sick and empty and sad.
Danny was everywhere she looked. Short blonde hair and an open, baby-fat soft face over slick, shell armour. Dead blue eye and a blank expression. Mama had tried to bring him back to life - over and over again - but all she got was a walking corpse.
‘Agent Matheson,’ one of the Danny’s said, walking towards her. He moved like she remembered, loose-limbed and ungainly. Oh god, she couldn’t bear it. His head cocked to the side - that was Danny - and stark white lines flashed under his skin. ‘I am your assigned partner, DN-192.’
Charlie laughed, a rough bark of sound. ‘Fuck that,’ she said. Glancing up she found the watchful drones in the corners. ‘Fuck you.’