(based off a dialogue prompt)
“Please,” he cried. “Oh dear God, please. No.”
Her face was unflinching as she opened her supplies. “Hold him down.”
The student - as far as she could tell from their faded school backpack - who had just come in with their companion was nearly grey beneath their mask,
The student - as far as she could tell from their faded school backpack - who had just come in with their companion was nearly grey beneath their mask, but they nodded and pushed him back against the cot. The dim bulb above them flickered and surged, and she prayed that now, of all times, the power would hold.
“What happened?” She was running low on supplies again. Most of the microchips she had left were old and scratched, and some were out of date entirely.
“What happened?” She was running low on supplies again. Most of the microchips she had left were old and scratched, and some were out of date entirely. The cables weren’t in much of a better state.
“Police taser,” the student said. To their credit, their voice was remarkably calm, but when she glanced over she could see them gripping the edge of the cot.
“The protests on 49th Street?”
The student’s mouth flattened and that was the only answer she needed. She looked to the windows. The shutters were down, thankfully.
“Who told you about me?”
“Someone,” the student said.
“Please,” her patient said again, choking. “I’m broken. You have to help me. I don’t - “
“Please,” her patient said again, choking. “I’m broken. You have to help me. I don’t - " His voice wavered and shorted out, like a silenced speaker, and just as quickly as it had gone, it was back again, in his shuddered sobs and laboured breathing.
This was clearly not going to be an easy case.
“You’ll be fine,” she said firmly, coming up to the cot. “What’s your name?”
“You’ll be fine,” she said firmly, coming up to the cot. “What’s your name?” Another stifled sob. “Haydn.”
“Like the composer?” She cut his shirt apart, heedless of the scattered buttons.
His chest was visibly twitching and jumping even as she eyed it, trying to discover the source of the reason why he and his friend had shown up at her clinic not ten minutes before,
soaked in sweat and shaking, dressed in those black and blue uniforms that were impossible to mistake even in the dim lighting, both wearing masks with the hilts of weapons clear on their belts.
She would’ve thought she was being robbed had it not been for the screaming.
“His parents were musicians,” the student said, with a commendable effort at a dry tone even as their voice shook. “Pretentious hippies, like he says.”
Amazingly, his mouth twitched up. “Like you’re one to talk,” he wheezed, before he succumbed to coughing. She was alarmed to hear the hollow creak of his breath as he did so.
“Less talking and more staying still,” she said sharply. “What am I dealing with here?”
He closed his eyes and leaned back against the mat, his eyelids jumping and flicking erratically. The student pressed their mouth into a line again. She turned on them with a snarl.
“I can’t help him if you don’t give me information!”
“Avery,” Haydn choked. “Please. Just tell her.”
“He’s had nearly a full mechothoracotomy,” Avery eventually said, sounding like the words were being dragged out of their throat.
“He’s had nearly a full mechothoracotomy,” Avery eventually said, sounding like the words were being dragged out of their throat. “Most of the chest except for the left lung."
Then, “You have to help him. You’re the only one we know of who can come even close to helping.”
Her breath caught. No wonder.
Her breath caught. No wonder. “Haven’t seen any cases like this outside of the army,” she muttered. “But the two of you can’t be more than seventeen years old.”
Before either of them could reply, she had cut a neat, firm slice down the middle of his chest.
Haydn jerked, but she soon found the necessary switch among the mess of sparking and tangled wires and he fell limp back onto the cot.
Avery stared down, eyes wide. “What did you do to him?”
“Just pulled the immobilization switch. It doesn’t hurt him or shut down the system, just puts him out for a while. Trust me, it’s better this way.”
The synthetic skin would mend easily enough once she reprogrammed it back together. Now she could see the tight, neat bundles of wiring and chips along the inside of his chest.
“Whoever did this was a shoddy job.
“Whoever did this was a shoddy job. Used cheap fibres for the cables; they’ve worn down over time right here,”
- she indicated the scratched surfaces along the cavity walls and the gleam of copper scraped visible beneath the heavy-duty casings, “and the taser must’ve shorted several out.”
She scrutinized further. “His vocal cords are connected, as was his spine, and both of them are being affected. This is likely why he was unable to walk when the two of you first arrived.”
Avery nodded, and though they still looked somewhat ashen, they seemed steadier on their feet.
She glanced sideways at them.
She glanced sideways at them. “You’re too young to be soldiers, unless this country’s military is even less transparent than I thought it was.”
“Some sort of accident when he was a kid.” Avery looked down at Haydn’s left hand, clasped in theirs. “He never talked about it much.”
She didn’t look up from her work. “I didn’t even know this kind of tech was available to civilians.”
“It usually isn’t,” Avery said, and didn’t elaborate.