watching the lights go down

other worlds through sunglasses


these thoughts, artificial intelligence
Rook the Librarian gisho
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[origific] Dead Man Walking
Sort of missed the title, but oh well, this is what I came up. Nor is there any flower imagery! From a prompt for white_aster.


*



The only really annoying thing, Jimmy decided, was that he was out of the marathon leauge for good. They didn't allow cyborgs. Nothing personal, his coach had assured him, it was just the way things were. It wouldn't be fair to the - and you could see her struggling not to use the word 'humans' - flesh-bodied runners.

He was vaugely tempted to pitch a fit about how they still allowed people with heart valves - hell, with whole artificial hearts - if they were mad enough to want to run, but he was still a bit shy and he'd mumbled vauge thanks for her time and left, and almost went to get drunk before recalling that his metabolism just didn't work that way anymore.

Okay, make that two really annoying things. He hadn't exactly been an alcoholic, although he'd drunk a bit more than was good for him - everyone was allowed some vices, and his tended to have been shut up in bottles for twenty years with little wax seals over the top - but he hated the idea of going cold turkey. And it wasn't as if he could drink for the taste. The tastebuds didn't quite work the same way.

He went to the movie theater instead, and bought a ticket for something with a French title starring an actress he vaugely recalled being good in last year's action blockbuster. It wasn't the best movie he'd ever seen, but it was funny and relaxing. When he got out he headed out hurriedly, hoping to catch the next express train and not have to transfer before he got home. His new legs were really quite good; he was moving faster than anyone else in the crowd. But then, half the crowd was parents herding thier children, just out of the kiddie movie. He was moving so fast he never saw the little girl on roller-sneakers skid in front of him, and he tripped and they fell over in a heap against the drink machine, which promptly fell over right on top of them.

Jimmy didn't really think about what happened next; it was all instict. He could have dodged, but the girl was still there, and so he stuck his arms out and stiffened them and winced as the drink machine made his new metal bones jangle. But she was still there, and he could tell by the screaming that she wasn't really hurt. He knew the noise of a child screaming in fear from one in pain. There was a roar, and then a number of people were screaming. Someone suggested calling the hospital. Someone else, a woman from the sound of it, suggested thy try lifting the drink machine. There was a footstep noise, and then the woman said 'Heave-ho!' and he could feel the terrible weight come off his arms. He opened his eyes. The girl was whimepering. He leaned back slowly, quietly running a diagnostic.

The girl darted out and into the arms a young man kneeling down beside them, whimerping 'Daddy!' Jimmy sat back and looked at them. The man had dreadlocks and a terrified expression, and he was rocking the girl back and forth, humming softly to her as she sobbed quietly into his shoulder. He looked up at Jimmy with raw gratitude in his eyes.

Jimmy gave the man a sickly grin, and for a moment he was thankful his dark brown skin kept him from looking green before he remembered that his skin was gone, and all he had now was dark brown synthetic. The crowd was milling about uncertainly now, and someone was threatening to write to the cinema company and complain that the machine wasn't secure. Well, it shouldn't have tipped over like that, certainly. Somemight have have gotten hurt. In fact, someone had. Something was wrong with his hand, the diagnositc said.

He picked it up and looked at it. It was easy to tell what; the weight of the drinks machine had popped half his finger joints out, and there was no telling what else was wrong. Probably he should have gotten the flex-armor version, eh thought distantly, even if the sensations weren't as good. He rolled up his sleeve and popped the glove loose, then began to peel off the skin of his hand; he could at least realign the joints right here, and then he'd go right to the emergency mechanic, and it would all be working again with fifteen minute's adjustment and a few sapre gears.

The little girl screamed again.

Jimmy looked over, thinking for a moment that he'd done wrong and she was hurt after all, but she as just clinging to her father's shirt, whimpering. "Daddy, daddy, it's a scary robot! Make the bad robot go away!"

Her father picked her up and hurried her off, with an apologetic glance back, but without hesitation.

Make that three things that were really annoying. Half the crowd was staring now. Jimmy coughed meaningfully. "Alright, you, go about your business," he said firmly. "Be glad it was a guy with an artifical arm that got under it, or there would be a lot of blood on the floor right now. I'll be fine with some small repairs." Just as well to make them think it was one prosthetic; no call to mention that it was an all-over job. He quickly shoved the joints back in with his free hand, wincing at the mettalic scrape, then pulled the glove on and stood up, hastily hiding the hand in his coat pocket. He didn't need this crap. It wasn't good for his sanity. Couldn't be good for anyone's. The hand was still numb, which was a bad sign. Its pain sensors cut out when the signal got too high, and that meant it was still serious damaged. Oh well; if the worst happened he could get it replaced. Hands were easy. He could even get one with custom accesories. Maybe he should; the palm screen might - he couldn't say come in handy, could he? The doctor who'd helped him remap his new limbs had said so, deadpan, and had looked very confused when Jimmy had groaned mightily. The palm screen might be useful, was a better way of putting it.

Outside the sunset was glowing surgical pink and the lights of the habitat were just coming on. Jimmy smiled as he watched the suncatcher screens fold up like giant black flowers. It was pure theatre, that; it didn't hurt them to sit out in the dark. But it was a nice thing to watch in the evenings, and whatever people said about not blocking views, that was really why it was done.

He blinked hard, and his infared vision came on, giving the whole habitat an unearthly glow.

One nice thing, that. He missed his old eyes, but he didn't miss his bifocals one tiny little bit. The day he left he hospital he'd dug out his spares - his usual pair hd been destroyed in the fire, of course - and jumped up and down on them until they were a little pile of plastic shards on the tile. It took a lot of jumping, but he managed.

The mechanic near his house would work late in an emergency, and a hand that wouldn't bend and was completely numb was certainly and emergency. Jimmy didn't think he'd hurt anything else, but it might be good to get his arms checked. He walked distractedly to the tram, noticing absently that he hadn't missed the express at all, slid in and pressed his thumb to the button, saying his station number aloud. It gave him an error beep. He tried again, and nearly tried a third time before he remembered it was his other hand, the smashed one, that he had the print copy on. He had to manuever it in place, holding his wrist.

Four annoying things, that day. Not heart-wrenching. Heart-wrenching had been the whole thing, the realization that his old skin and his old muscles and his old legs had all been burned away, that he was trapped inside this machine that was his body now, that he would never again dance or make love or run a marathon quite the same way, that he would never be ablle to appreciate the taste of good old liquours barring some drastic advance in tehcnology. That he looked human, acted human, but he was a human brain stuck inside a shell now. A good shell, a well-made shell that people who didn't know could easily mistake for his old self, but still, a shell.

No, it was the little things that got to him. The new legs that weren't allowed to run. The way people looked a him when they knew. It wasn't something freakish, dammit. It wasn't something to be ashamed of. He was tired of pretending nothing had happened. Something had. His body worked better now than it ever had before, and despite everything, he loved that much.

He pulled out his phone and thumbed trhough his numbers until he found one that he had never expected to use, then dialed. Somehow he wasn't suprised that it was answered on the second ring.

"Captain?"

"Ah, James Anari. I didn't think I'd hear from you." The Captain's voice was high and questioning, almost a laugh. He'd noticed that when she first came to see him, in the hospital. Either she had a good voicebox or she worked hard for it.

"I've changed my mind," he told her. "You were right. I can't really go back. So I want to do something useful. This is a good body, whatever they think. It would be a shame not to use its capabilities."

"You have a good brain, too," the Captain said sternly. "The Lafayette Unit needs both. I'm glad you called. Can you come by tomorrow to sign the papers?"

"Of course. Nine?"

"That's fine. I'll see you then."

He hung up with no feeling of apprehension in the pit of his stoumach. He was calm. Dead calm. There was leftover adrenaline in his brain, of course, but not in his muscles.

It would all be fine. Just fine.

Interesting story. I like the 'human' touches of people's reactions (albeit prejudiced) and the main character's own thoughts.

oooh, I like. :) I love how Jimmy is still very human, his body aside. :) I'm interested in what happens to him after, and what this project he's signing up for is about. ^_^

I like this a lot! One quibble: as someone relatively new to having a mechanical body, and presumably familiar with the societal prejudices against cyborgs, would Jimmy really be so casual about pulling off the flesh glove to fix his hand right there on the sidewalk? I actually like that bit a lot, but it's a moment I think would have worked better if he'd been until very recently in a setting where impromptu repairs would have gone unremarked -- people were either really used to him, or just to cyborgs in general.

I do love a good angsty-cyborg story, though.

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