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Ghost in the Machine

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Nagi scratched his arm, still sure he could feel the difference in the join between the synthskin and his own, real skin. The doctors said it was psychosomatic, that no one could tell the difference. Not unless they'd gone for scales or fur, Nagi supposed. He had not. The skin was a perfect match to his own, exactly replicating that which had been lost. He flexed his fingers, imagining he could hear tiny gears. It was important to keep practicing even now, the doctors said, to keep doing ordinary things until he forgot his hands were machines. He flicked a finger and sent a pencil skittering across the desk to stop, precariously balanced right on the edge. It was as precise as if he had stopped it with his telekinesis.

He'd been lucky, he thought. That was what he had to focus on. The falling sheet of glass that had sheared off his arms could have killed him, easily, all because his attention was on the immense block of stone that had nearly crushed Schuldig. Thank God Schuldig had been quick-witted enough to save him, when he passed out from shock and blood loss.

He'd been lucky. Others hadn't. He turned back to the computer and activated the program that allowed him to communicate. It was getting harder and harder to make himself do it, but friendship was friendship.

"Hello, Crawford," he said into the microphone. "It's Friday. I'm well, Schuldig is well."

"Hello, Nagi," the speakers said, the voice monotone and quiet. "That's good to hear. Have you spoken to the doctors?"

"They're still working on it," he said. "They say the neural technology is almost there, you don't have to wait much longer."

"That's good. How long?"

Nagi closed his eyes. "Maybe another year."

There was no response, then, "Very well."

It was not possible to hear sorrow, or resignation in the machine's tones, the experts said that. The voice was surely as calm as it had been for the last three years.

Nagi grimaced, and scratched his arm. They had also told him that synthskin didn't itch.