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Manitoba, 2115

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Constable Francis MacKenzie of the Royal Canadian Mechanized Police opened his eyes, and when he was able to focus, saw the stars above shining brilliantly. The dust from the rockslide had settled, but the tactic for diverting it from the village had worked.

Almost exactly as he had planned. Just… not the way he had told Charles it would work.

The medbot was going to be furious with him, but after a few years of working together, it was the only way to make sure the surgeon was safe. Francis had known the tolerances for his mech unit, and had honestly planned to eject, but things had gotten out of hand.

There were weak pings from the mech, now a twisted wreck of metal and circuits, that he was still in the middle of, but the power was fading. There was no response from the radio, but the locator was still clicking over. With the canopy gone, the sounds were all that Francis had to work from, and he knew he had totaled yet another rig.

One difference - it seemed that this time, he might have actually damaged himself as well. His legs were probably pinned, and even if he was just so very tired, the pain was not so bad. He could just rest here quietly, content to breathe in the scent of the woods, and hike down to the village when he had rested enough to wiggle out of the mess that had been his mech.

There was a cry of a bird he did not quite recognize, off in the distance, and he puzzled over it a few moments before he realized the misidentification. Not a bird, but Charles was calling for him. Quite urgently, and angry? Yes, a bit more than his usual gruff annoyed voice. Or was that anger? Francis was a bit fuzzy about that at the moment.

“Here,” he croaked, raising an arm, before allowing it to flop back. He was tired, and just wanted to file his report and go home. Home, with Charles. Lovely thought, that - he should do something nice for Charles when they got home, to make up for making his friend worry.

The calls were getting closer, and now Francis could hear scrabbling on the rocks. Charles was made for a hospital environment, but had adapted well to field work. At least in the field, people were not quite so put out when he was swearing in Gaelic so old most translator programs had problems recognizing it as a language.  

“Laddie buck, the next time I catch you lying to me about the dangers of a mission, I will trank your sorry mac tuilidhe hide!” The ranting trailed off as the medbot’s lights reached Francis, and the bot’s voice became hushed, “...oh, m'anam…”

Francis reached to touch his friend’s cowling near his main camera, “Sorry for lying to you, but I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

The bot unfolded several instruments from his carapace, gently administering pain medications and taking readings, “As if you are easier to repair than I am.”

Charles’s gruff grumble held a thread of worry, though Francis admitted to himself it might be the most excellent drugs the medbot was giving him. “I’m the constable, I’m supposed to keep people from being put in harm’s way.”

“Hush and let me work.”

“Erm, I can’t seem to feel my toes. Are my legs pinned?” Francis asked, curious but not particularly worried. It was several moments before Francis noticed he was getting cold and it was harder to breathe, “Oh.” The stars were getting out of focus as well. “I messed up bad, didn’t I?”

“I’ve called for a medevac, and cushioned your systems.” Charles voice seemed to come from far away.

Francis knew the closest facility was an hour’s flight away, and had figured out he might not have that long. “Charles, come closer, please?” Still in his plugsuit, he was not going to be able to get the glove off, but having his closest friend near would still be a comfort.

“Francis, don’t talk, you need to conserve your energy,” Charles leaned in close without putting pressure on any of the wounds.

“I need to make my report, at least.”

“No,” there was a gentle touch of a fine manipulator on Francis’s lips, “You can do that from the hospital.”

“Charles, you’re brilliant, but I’m-” Francis began to wheeze, and coughed, cutting off what he was about to say.

The medbot reacted swiftly, encasing the constable’s torso with his chassis, replacing the connections to the mech with his own connections. “Rest! Doctor’s orders!”

Connecting to Charles was a much different experience than connecting to the mech. RCMP mechs were not AIs, and it became an extension of his own body. Charles, on the other hand,  was giving information at the same time as he was pulling information from the implants on how badly Francis was injured. Not all of the information given was medical, though.

A moan escaped, ah, that’s… Francis had been under the influence of digital drug simulations in training but this was nothing like that. There was a tickling sensation as Charles seemed to be in the process  of covering his entire body, converting from a mobile surgical unit to a full body splint and rescue carrier, swearing all the while, but the rest of it was most bizarre.

Francis was dimly aware that the anesthetic rebreather was in his mouth, with the oxygen mask over his nose, but the senses he was getting were not clinical. The impressions were more complex, the scents of a meadow in spring bloom underlaid with really good tea, watching sunlight dazzle on the surface of a lake through the sunset, hearing the drone of bees in the apple orchard playing Debussy on theremin, tasting the ice wine from last New Year, electric pulses dancing in his mind, and the feel of warm hands on every inch of skin….

The constable was overwhelmed by the bioelectric feedback, and gave himself up to the sensations, promising himself that if he ever was able to talk to Charles again, an apology would be the second thing he said. He had held back too long, not said all he should. The regrets were soon swept away by another wave of electric caresses and whispered wordless assurance.

After an eternity that did not last half long enough, Francis woke up.

After a brief bit of surprise at still being alive, his first thought was not where was he or what shape he was in, but Charles. He tried to sit up, and groaned at the pain from multiple sources.

“Na, laddie - you’re to stay abed for some time yet.” Just hearing Charles’s voice soothed his biggest worry, that he had angered his friend enough that he would not be there.

“Cha-,” Francis croaked, and the hospital bed offered a drinking tube. After a few sips, he tried again, “Charles, love, sorry….”

“Aye, m'anam. I remember.” Charles’s fine manipulator took his hand.

“What was that simulation you gave me,” Francis began as he returned the surgeon’s gentle grip.

“No hallucinations, no simulations, that was all you. Or rather, all us.” Charles’s voice was in his gentlest mode. “Once I made the connection to your implants, all I could do was hang on for the ride, and make sure you dinna make your injuries worse.”

“Well, you are my doctor, and good at it.”

“Na, A chuisle mo chroí. I’m nae your doctor anymore, m’too close to you to be objective.”

Pulse of my heart, something he had never heard Charles ever say, but the constable was grateful the RCMP included a language implant in his array. Francis’s heart rate increased, and he smiled. “Stay close, please.”

“Always.”