Flash: Wounds

Image courtesy of vvadyab at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The beeping grated. So many different beeps all going at different rhythms. You think by the sawbones wouldn’t need that crap in the twenty-second century. Or was it the twenty-third now? How long had he been gone? The mission started just before the end of the True year–

A new, louder beep joined the clamor.

“He’s conscious.”

“Well fix it.” Squishy noises sounded far too close to his ears. “I’m busy.”

Wait, no…


Less beeping. Only one. A nice rhythm. I wonder if that is my heart?

Laser bolts flying by me, flying through me as I scramble-jump-fall down the cliff outside the Torrent science labs.

The rhythm picked up.

“Sergeant,” a pleasant female voice, supported by graphene strength overcame the beeping, “please stop that before I put you to sleep again.”

Sorry, doc. I try to say, but the mouth didn’t move. I try again and whisper grunts result. Liquid, blessed and burning, shoots in the mouth. More sound results thereafter, mostly coughing.

“Gentle. Sip.” A tube is placed between my lips. I sip. “Sip.” I sip. “Sip.” I sip.

I feel like a backback, repeating the activity every time she gives me the instruction, until the woman finally removes the tube.

Fourth time’s the charm. “Sorry, doc” croaks out.

“It’s okay.”

I like the smile in the voice. Does the face match the voice? I crack open the eyes. The left one opens, but the right one is gummed up. The strong, pleasant voice and smile matches the face bending over me. A moist sponge touches my right check carefully cleaning around the eye until I am able to pry it open.

“Isn’t that better?” she asks.

I don’t know about you sweetheart, but opening my eyes took all my energy. “Yeah, it is.” I whisper back.

Standing up, she waves her hands about eye level before asking, “Do you know where you are?”

Typical orientation questions. Got to go down the list before she will answer any of mine. Doctors.


“And what is your name?”

“Hold on.” She may be typical but I am not. Got to show off for the pretty woman. Doesn’t matter she can bench press me with one finger right now and outsmart me any day of the year. “Want to guess which one. You are in Devil’s Brother gear, so I’m still in the Torrent system but the gravity is light.” I was able to lift my eyelids after all. I try to turn my head to the side for another sip of liquid.

I guess she saw the twitch because she moves the tube back into my mouth. We repeat the slow “Sip”, I sip, routine. I almost close my eyes when we are done but power through.

“Two stations.”

“Two stations?” she prompts.

“Apple and Snake. Apple built first. Medical moved to Snake when built.” I crack my lips in an attempt to smile triumphantly. “I’m on Snake station above Torrent.”

“Very good, Mr. …”

Pushy doctor. Got to go through her checklist. “Boucicaut Mali. Gamma-one-six-five-nine-phi-tau-niner. Sergeant Specialist Third, Devil’s Brother Division, True Empire Army.”

She waves the hands, lower this time, less obvious. “And the day?”

Shaking the head doesn’t work. Do they have it in a vice? “Not a clue.”

“True year two thousand two hundred and one, first month, nineteenth day.”

“Got it right.” I croak out.

“What right, Sergant?” She smiles gently at me, her hands moving. I hear a hum from one of the machines change.

“Thought the year had….” I was asleep before finishing the sentence because doctors cheat. I wanted to ask some questions myself.


“I wanted to ask some questions.” I said as soon as I was awake again and the tube-sip routine competed.

The much younger person hovering over my bedside eyes darted toward the opening without making a verbal response. The room was smaller. Barely space for my bed and the corpsman. Significantly less equipment than my last wake cycle; the beep finally removed. The room looked like it doubled for a lifeboat. Two jump seats tucked up against the wall the corpsman bumped against.

I moved my head … hey, I can move my head … verifying my bed pushed against two other jump seats. The controls would be under my feet. I frown. Not good if med-staff was sticking people into life pods. Danced away from speculating how crowded the main station modules had to be. What has Torrent done to my folks? Just because the True Empire is forcing you to join is no reason to be rude.

Except it kind-of is a good reason.

Wished my planet had had the guts.

I take that thought and push it to the very, very back of the head behind all the training I got to fight torture and drug inquisitions.

“You have some questions?” Doctor pleasant smile, steel voice had returned.

I hadn’t tracked her switching places with the corpsman. Thank the Emperor’s Heirs I wasn’t in the field. “Hey, doc.”

“Hey yourself, Sergeant Mali.”

Her head had been reshaved, leaving a gleaming ebony expanse I longed to run my hands over. Horny is good right? Sign of body recovery. Remembering things, I try to glance down at my body parts. Ouch. I wait for the spots to go away. Head moves side to side, but not up and down.

“Am I still white?” Torrent ain’t got votes for sun, so got settled by Caucasians. Coming from the mixed planet of Waai, I got volunteen-told to infiltrate since I only needed skin lightening and not a full facial reconstruction most of the Devil’s Brothers would need to look local. We drew heavily from the Western arc of the Empire, with nearly half of our people from Rafiki, Imani, Paki, and Subira. General Yoh should have tapped Satan’s Own for a couple of their division specialists. Then one of them could be here instead of me.

“We’ve been concentrating on other things.”

Oh, well. I still got moves whatever my skin color. Once I can move again. “Those other things. What’s the damage, doc?”

Her head tilted sideway and she hand-waved a few things I couldn’t see, before stepping into the room and pressing the iris closed.

“Are you sure you are up to this?”

“I’m betting you think I am since you just closed the door.” I move my chin to the side to point at the closed airlock. I miss my hands. Moving my left increased the local gravity from the typical one-third level of the space station to six-gee. My right didn’t even acknowledge the attempt.

The doc made a frustrated sound. “How have you not been tapped for officer training?” Ah, she noticed my … brains.

“My specialty.” She had my medical records. She had to know my specialty even if it never showed in my normal records. I’ve been pumped with some electoral-level shit for some of my missions.

She decided to ignore the elephantasaurous in the room, since it didn’t fit anyway. “You were shot five times.”

“Really, five? I had only counted four.”

“First time, point blank through the chest. The hole was small and the exit aperture barely larger than the entrance.”

I tried to nod the head, but the pain of the vertical motion reminded me what a bad idea that was after the fact. “Yeah. I remember that one well.”

“Hit a lung but no major veins. Lungs are easy to rebuild, we shoved in the scaffolding during surgery with the stem cells and it was fully functional before you woke up. The muscles and ribs are being built now. We’ve immobilized your torso until the repair is complete. We have two more stem cell applications, which hopefully will fix everything without incident.”

“And what if there is an incident, doc?”

Her face hardened into non-expression. “Then you get to go home immediately.”

“Here’s to not having an incident.” The only way to leave the Division while it’s activated is in a body or cryo bag. Cyro means they can’t fix you on the front lines, body means they plain can’t fix you. “What else?”

“You took a tight laser across the tush. We scraped the hole and sewed it back together.” The doctor’s face lightened up again. “You now got a cute dimple on your pale ass.”

“Yeah, it won’t be pale for long.” I growled.

“Shall I make a note to fix the scar tissue as well when they reverse the skin?”

I know she is playing with me. The Division is obligated to put my skin back since I really need it back on Waai. The star my home world circled threw radiation like a democracy threw money. The dimple, on the other hand, had been fixed as far as they were concerned. “Sure. How about the arm?”

I know I got hit in the right arm. I remember that part. And walking. And holding the slim-jim like my life depended on it with my left while falling and walking and falling and walking.

Purple-eyes darted above my head. Oh, they do have equipment which doesn’t beep. Good to know.

“We cut it off.”

There’s that. My stomach hollowed out, but I calmed down. “More.”

“All three other shots were in the right arm. We might have been able to fix the lower ones, but the top one burned through an artery. When you stumbled across the patrol, everything below the wound hadn’t received blood in over two days.” She shrugged an apology. “Necrosis.”

She stared at the panel above my head and made a few taps on her invisible screen.

I waited.

She squirmed in the silence until she broke it. “Your new arm has been attached. We had three sessions of establishing nerves and energy connections while you were out. Tomorrow we will be releasing the torso restriction so you can begin therapy.”

“So I am a cyborg now.” I want to look at the arm, but the slight chin drop reminded me of the pain waiting. I can learn.

The doc smiled. “As are we all.”

A quick hand motion closed whatever screen they had wired into her head. Doctors and officer types get all the special wetware, us grunt aren’t worth the cost. Until they break us.

If they break us after we are fully trained that is. Still at boot, you get sent home broken. Trained and moved to the front, fixing is cheaper. The Empire knows how to keep money on the throne world unlike the democracy which had come before it.

Unlike the democracy my world had before the Empire came knocking when I was two.

“How long?” I ask as she opens the door. I can hear moans and beeps beyond.

“Therapy will cycle you down in two days.”

A solider got to sleep when he can, so I close my eyes, ignoring the cliff face asking me to tumble down it through laser fire, refusing to feel the arm no longer there, and pushed all the way back to my grandmother crooning French lullabies before she fought against the annexation.

Ainsi font, font, font, les petites marionettes.

(Words 1863 – first published 7/29/2018)