You wake to the whirring sound of hydraulics and a thick band constricting your right arm.
A stranger's voice rattles off numbers, "One seventeen over seventy-eight, heart-rate ninety-four…"
Eyelids heavy, you force yourself to look at the overly bright room. It's yellow and stinks of antiseptic and metal. It's too clean to be a medic's tent. Army hospital, maybe, but not one you remember.
"Welcome back, soldier," says a different, closer voice. "We thought perhaps we were too late, when we found you." A set of small eyes peers down at you from behind a pair of thick round glasses. "Lucky for us, you survived," the man says. The bright light behind him reflects off his bald head like an orange halo. "A little worse for wear, though."
The truth of his statement seeps into your awareness. Everything hurts, but the worst of it is on your left side, a bone-deep ache reaching from your shoulder to your chest and ribs. You turn your heavy head and try to see what happened.
Your shoulder got hit bad. You can't feel your fingers. When you look further down, there's bone and tattered flesh where your arm should be. You remember jagged rocks tearing into you, a trail of red in the snow, ice cold prickling against your neck. You remember falling.
A jolt of pain near your right wrist draws your attention and you look over to see a large needle piercing a vein in your forearm. It's rigged to a large assembly of tubes and bags and upside-down bottles, positioned next to your cot. Your heart thuds in your chest and you try to ask What happened? but what comes from your lips is little more than a pained wheeze.
"Don't worry," the man says, stroking his thumb across his chin. "When we wake you up again, you'll be good as new. Better."
The taste of metal floods the back of your throat as the yellow of the room fades. A small saw spins and stutters as it hits bone.
When you wake again, there's a strange tingle on your left, much less painful than the throbbing from before. You remember falling, a trail of red in the snow, and the sound of a saw. Three forms in white move around in the yellow haze, and for a moment you wonder if you made it into Heaven after all. You shouldn't have, you really shouldn't have.
"Ah, wonderful, you're awake," says the voice from before. "How do you feel?"
You try to answer, moving your leaden jaw, get as far as wetting your lips.
"It will seem strange at first, while the neural pathways are still forming, but in a few days it will feel like a part of you."
"What?" you ask, but the word has no strength behind it. No more volume than a breath of air.
The drugged fog starts to fade and you shift your shoulders in the chair they've strapped you to. There's a needle in your right arm and your left…your left is shining silver. Confused, you lift your hands, trying to figure out if it's a trick of the light. The fingers on your right hand move as you make a fist, and the fingers on your left twitch before responding. There's a jolt of pain that travels up from the silver hand straight to your left shoulder and you flinch, biceps tensing in response. There's an odd noise--a whining whir like a servo-motor from inside the metal.
"What happened?" you ask, and this time your words are audible--chipped gravel over whiskey and cigarettes, but there. The shape of the words feel clumsy on your tongue. You speak the language, but it doesn't feel like yours. "Where--"
"Good questions, soldier. Very good questions." The bald man looks you in the eyes. He's wearing what look like welding goggles. You can see bits of yourself in the reflection--dark, bruised eyes, ashen skin. "We have a question for you also: Who are you?"
You open your mouth to respond, but find you can't. You don't know the answer. There's a name that flits through your thoughts, but it isn't yours, and a number. "107th," you say.
"One oh seventh, what?" asks the man.
"I--I don't know."
"That's okay. These things happen sometimes. The brain is such a delicate instrument." His mouth curves into a smile, flashing uneven tiles of teeth. "We will help you remember."
"My arm…" It wasn't like that before. You're certain of that much at least. When you move your silver fingers, they respond more quickly, and you feel another spasm of pain travel up into your shoulder and through your chest. It gathers near your heart and your eyes clench shut as the pressure builds. It feels like someone's fist is squeezing your insides.
"Blood pressure rising. One thirty over ninety." Says a more distant voice. "One fifty over one ten."
"That's our cue. Turn on the calibrators." The small man stands straight and takes a step back.
"This will hurt also, but we need you conscious." He takes off his goggles and pulls his round glasses from the pocket of his lab coat. "My colleagues often forget that the mind is just as powerful a weapon as the body. I intend to make use of all of you."
Your gut sinks and any doubt you had as to the intentions of your saviors vanishes. You pull against the restraints, testing their hold. Your right arm doesn't budge, but your left--your left one pulls at the cuff around your upper arm until it detaches from the chair with a snick.
"Now," says the voice.
There's a loud whining buzz by your head and something clamps down on your skull, pinning your head in place. You reach up, trying to stop the vice from closing. But your metal arm is too heavy, too slow. You smell ozone a moment before the discharge, and then fire floods your brain. You hear yourself screaming.